Speakers debate economic inequality at annual ethics symposium

Don Millican founded the J.J Millican ethics symposium in honor of his father in 2005.

Don Millican founded the J.J Millican ethics symposium in honor of his father in 2005.

This year, the 12th annual J.J. Millican Ethics Symposium questions: Does capitalism fairly distribute income?

Every year, guest speakers come to Oklahoma Christian University to discuss large ethical controversies. The campus will host two Ethos approved events — a student panel discussion at 4:00pm followed by the symposium at 7:00pm — to talk about income inequality Oct. 24.

Sophomore Abigail Kent is one of the students chosen to speak in the ethics panel. Kent said this event is displaying income inequality as one of the biggest concerns of our time, because it is foundational to the way people see the rest of society. The panel will discuss the principle philosophy of what equality is, Kent said.

“There are different forms of [equality]; there are different motivations for it,” Kent said. “There are different outcomes, different ways you could implement it. And that starts to address things that are more racial in nature, that are more political in nature. In this instance, it comes down to what are different people’s opinions of equality, and obviously it’s a foundational American principle. To really hash that out is to hash out reasons America was founded in the first place.”

Professor of Communication Brian Simmons organized the panel discussion and will moderate the event on Tuesday. He said he selected four student debaters who will cover four broad questions in the upcoming panel. Simmons said he hopes those who hear this presentation will learn something new and consider the other side of the issue.

“Beneath each question are certain points we want to draw out, certain controversial positions on those topics we want to give some voice to,” Simmons said. “Economic inequality can be a sort of dry topic or a controversial topic, so I hope the students who attend hear a rather complicated, but important topic discussed in an easy to understand, thought-provoking way.”

Simmons said he believes the symposium and student panel will help attendees form well-informed opinions on important issues. According to Simmons, many college students have opinions on these topics, but they are not always as developed or concrete as they are later in life.

“I’m hoping this kind of event on a campus like this really does what a university campus should do, which is present different sides of a topic,” Simmons said. “I hope it gets the students to think about issues for themselves and then choose where they want to land on that topic. And especially in America right now. The topic of economic inequality is a pretty important one and I think kids on Christian college campus ought to think about that from a Christian perspective. So that’s what we’re doing and for me that’s right at the heart of what a university should be doing.”

Simmons said he, along with the students from the panel and Dr. Anne Bradley, the keynote speaker, will be at the 4:00 p.m. session to participate in the panel discussion. J.J. Millican Chair of Accounting Elaine Kelly said she and Simmons decided to invite Bradley to campus, because of a book she worked on.

“The book is called ‘Counting the Cost,’ and one of the authors was Dr. Anne Bradley,” Kelly said. “We thought she’d be interesting to bring to campus, to let her talk a little bit about our economic system and relate it to the Bible.”

Kelly said people often notice an imbalance with wealth distribution in the country, which Christians should view as a call to action.

“People feel like there’s the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’” Kelly said. “Some people call it the one percent that have everything and the 99 percent that have nothing. A lot of people are debating that and the question is: what is that doing to the United States? What is that doing to our society? Is it normal? Is that just a normal, economic trend? If it is normal, then how do we as Christians — who’re supposed to serve everyone, rich and the poor — respond to this problem?”

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