Rutland Institute for Ethics

The Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics announces...

The 14th Annual

J.T. Barton Jr. Ethics Essay Scholarship Competition


1st Prize: $1,500 Scholarship

2nd Prize: $1,000 Scholarship

3rd Prize: $500 Scholarship

The deadline for submissions is 4:30 p.m. Monday April 13, 2015

Winners will be notified by Friday, April 24, 2015.

Your essay should address the question
associated with one of the five cases:

Rape and Parental Rights


What rights and responsibilities does the father of a child conceived through rape have regarding the child?

In 2011, Jamie Melendez, 20, pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year-old girl, who became pregnant as a result of the rape.  He was sentenced by a Massachusetts court to 16 years probation. As part of the conditions of his probation, the court ordered Melendez to pay weekly child support until the child reaches the age of 18. Melendez offered to relinquish state-allowed visitation rights if the requirement for child support was dropped. The mother asked the court to require Melendez to pay criminal restitution in lieu of child support so she would not be forced into having contact with her rapist for 16 years. The judge ruled against her request..... (MORE)



Under what conditions, if any, would it be ethically acceptable to commercially slaughter horses in the United States of America?

The cost of maintaining a horse that is no longer useful (i.e., one that is lame, old, or otherwise unsuitable) is high—so high that some consider it prohibitive. According to a report from the Animal Welfare Council (2006), the cost of taking care of such a horse is $2,340 per year. The animal could be expected to live another eleven years after its productive life, resulting in a cost that could exceed $25,000. The Unwanted Horse Coalition estimated in 2007 that there were 170,000 unwanted horses in the U.S. Options for disposing of a horse include letting it die of starvation and neglect, euthanizing it, or sending it to an equine slaughterhouse. Starvation, as a form of cruelty, is prohibited by law, but becomes the default solution when owners are unable to care for the animals. Euthanizing and burying a horse is significantly more complex and expensive than disposing of smaller animals. There are currently no domestic equine slaughterhouses. Reliance on foreign slaughterhouses exposes the horses to stressful shipping and to conditions uncontrolled by U.S. laws regarding humane treatment of animals.....(MORE)

Shot in the Dark


What limits, if any, should there be on people’s rights to defend themselves, loved ones, or their property?

Joshua Moore, 64, and his wife, Carol, ran a fruit stand from the back of their truck every Saturday for 25 years in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. One Saturday morning in July 2006, 16-year-old Manny Harris, in a robbery attempt, struggled with Carol Moore. Joshua Moore shouted for Harris to back off. Harris backed off momentarily, but returned again more aggressively. Mr. Moore, who did not know whether Harris had a weapon, fatally shot him. Joshua Moore was charged with second-degree murder. Although North Carolina law recognized self-defense as a natural right, the trial judge instructed the jurors not to consider self defense or defense of a family member in their deliberations, and to return a verdict of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or voluntary manslaughter. Moore was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. Moore spent several years and thousands of dollars defending himself in the courts. In 2012, the North Carolina Supreme Court overturned his conviction, finding that the trial court should have instructed jurors to consider in their deliberations, as Mr. Moore’s attorney had requested, that he was defending his wife...(MORE)



From a moral point of view, was the sentence that Ethan Couch received appropriate?

Ethan Couch, a 16-year-old Texan, crashed his pickup truck into a group of people while driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. He killed four people near a disabled car by the road and seriously injured two of seven youths riding in his truck. Judge Jean Boyd sentenced Couch to a lockdown rehabilitation facility and ten years probation. He will face a ten-year jail sentence if he drinks alcohol, uses drugs, or drives while on probation. The media fanned international controversy by picking up on defense expert testimony given by a psychologist. The psychologist claimed that Couch was the victim of “affluenza,” that he was incapable of good judgment due to lack of limits set by his wealthy parents. Observers, victims, and the victims’ families were appalled that Couch received such a light sentence. They claimed that the judge was influenced by the affluenza defense and allowed a spoiled rich kid’s parents to buy him a pass on real punishment.....(MORE)



What accommodations, if any, should be made for transgender students? 

One of the greatest problems facing transgendered students is safe access to restrooms and locker rooms. They are often harassed or threatened, whether they use the women’s or the men’s restroom, and consequently feel unsafe in either facility. Schools are struggling with assuring the safety and rights of transgendered students. For example, Alex Wilson self-identified as a girl when she was 12. For the last five years, since she turned 21, she has been living as a woman. As a nursing student at Florida’s Pinellas Technical Education Center, Alex had been using the women’s restroom without incident until August 2013, when a fellow student complained to administrators. The administration threatened Wilson with arrest if she continued to use the women’s restroom. She was given two other options: use either a storage closet across campus or the men’s restroom...(MORE)

Instructions are available here:


Your essay should address the question associated with one of the five cases:

“Rape and Parental Rights”
“A Shot in the Dark”

Be sure to indicate clearly which case and question you have selected.

The cases were prepared for the 21st Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. They are used with the kind permission of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, which holds the copyright on them.


Since you’re writing on an ethical question, your essay should concentrate on what should be done ethically rather than what is typical, practical, or consistent with a particular set of religious beliefs.

Ethical reasoning focuses on things like consequences, fairness, and rights. Your essay should address topics like the potential personal and societal effects (or consequences) involved, what would be fair, whether or not people’s rights are being violated.

Keep in mind that there is no one definitive answer to the question. The success of your essay depends on how effectively you state your reasons for the position you take.


Start by identifying the most significant points to be addressed.

Read a variety of opinions on the subject to get an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the various points of view.

Construct your own argument based upon the information you find most central, significant, and compelling.

Test your argument by discussing the question with people who disagree with you.

Revise several times, getting feedback after each new draft.

Utilize credible sources and cite all sources using an appropriate citation format (MLA, APA, or Chicago) in accordance with the university’s undergraduate academic integrity policy: Academic Integrity Policy Undergraduate Studies


Essays must be typed (double-spaced) using a twelve-point font. The title page should include the author’s name and contact information, but the text of the paper should be suitable for blind review. Essays must not exceed 1,500 words (a word count should be included on the title page; references and citations should not be included in the word count).

Essays should be submitted in electronic form as an attachment to email, which should be sent to this address: . Early submissions are welcome.


The deadline for submissions is 4:30 p.m. Monday April 13, 2015.

Winners will be notified by Friday April 24, 2015.




The Rutland Institute for Ethics  is committed to

Clemson University’s Academic integrity policies:

Undergraduate Policy

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