October 25, 2010

Hard to Handle Roomies

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Dear Everyday Ethicist,

My roommate has a bit of a body image issue. When we go grocery shopping, she insists that we buy all zero fat food and won’t let us buy regular food like bagels because they have too many carbs. What is the right thing to do? — Carb Craving in Collegetown

Dear Craving,

There’s a difference between healthy eating and an eating disorder, and if you suspect that your roommate might suffer from the latter, you need to seek professional help. If your roommate is overweight to the point where her weight endangers her health, it’s understandable that she doesn’t want to be surrounded by junk food. Losing weight can be a difficult process and requires encouragement and support from those around her. But her wish to control the foods you eat as well as her own calorie intake could also be symptomatic of an eating disorder, in which case your continued acquiescence could only be detrimental to her well-being. Suggest that your roommate visit a nutritionist — there are several at Gannett — for some professional advice. If it makes her feel more comfortable, the two of you could even go together.

Seeing a nutritionist might also help your roommate deal with social situations, where she can’t control everything that other people are eating. While it’s important for you to be sensitive of her desire to eat healthfully — you shouldn’t go into her room munching on a fresh-baked cookie, for instance — it’s equally important that your roommate respect your dietary needs, which might be quite different from hers. Rather than splitting groceries, each person should buy their own. If your bagels make her uncomfortable, compromise by keeping them in your room.

Dear Everyday Ethicist,

My roommate had an interview with a major company the other day. She came home and started talking about how well the interview went. The conversation got around to her qualifications and she admitted that she had lied about several things. For instance, she told the interviewer that she had taken several classes which she had not taken. I don’t feel that this was ethical, but maybe lying is standard practice in these interviews. What should I do? — Lying in Bed

Dear Lying,

Even if lying has become standard practice, you’re correct that your roommate should not engage in such unethical behavior. Companies ask about qualifications in order to pick candidates who are adequately prepared for the job. If your roommate falsifies her capabilities, she may find herself unable to fulfill the responsibilities that the job entails. Also, employers can easily check transcripts to verify whether or not a student is telling the truth.

On the other hand, some skills can be quickly learned. If the company asks whether your roommate knows a specific programming language, for instance, several engineers inform me that she can quickly pick it up if chosen for the job. Although she should not say that she already knows the language, she may say that she can learn it.

Elisabeth Rosen is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be consulted at ethicist@cornellsun.com or erosen@cornellsun.com for all ethical dilemmas, sticky situations, faux pas’ and pickles. The Everyday Ethicist appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

Original Author: Elisabeth Rosen