Case IV


In at least and at most 2 pages, using at least a 10pt font, 1 inch margins, and 1.5 line-spacing, hardcopy answers to the following prompt are due in class Wednesday, 12/11 upon sitting for the fourth exam. Please note that unstapled (loose-leaf) papers will not be accepted for grading.

In this last case let us take up the Principle of Analogy by considering the two following cases and writing an essay in which you,

  1. Catalog (list) the respects in which the following two cases are similar--i.e., analogous--and the respects in which they are dissimilar--i.e., disanalogous.
  2. Focusing now on the ways they are dissimilar, answer the question: Are one or more of the ways in which they are dissimilar morally relevant?
  3. If you concluded 'yes' to (2), explain which theory and in what ways it best demonstrates the moral relevance of the differences.
  4. If you concluded 'no' to (2), show how our moral principles (jointly implied by Utilitarianism, Deontology, and Contractarianism) have the same implication for both cases.

Case 1: Differential Undergraduate Tuition

Many public institutions have seen stagnant or decreasing budgets, and so are now asking students to shoulder more of the financial burden through increased tuitions. Sometimes, the amount they are being asked to pay depends on their majors. At some institutions, students in engineering and business pay more for their undergraduate degrees than students completing degrees in liberal arts or education.

The University of Wisconsin approved a tuition differential for students enrolled in the Bachelor of Business Administration program or earning a Certificate in Business beginning in fall 2007. The rationale offered for the increased tuition is that the costs of business education are rising faster than the university’s resource base and that the demand for those programs has grown and that higher tuition would help sustain the quality and expand the size of the business programs.

Higher tuition for business or engineering schools can be justified based on the higher costs of educating students in those disciplines. Business school faculty often command higher salaries than those in other colleges due to lucrative opportunities outside academia. Engineering students require expensive laboratory space and equipment, which needs to be constantly maintained and updated. The differential tuition policy can also be defended on the basis of higher starting salaries for graduates in those majors.

It can also be argued that differential tuition forces qualified students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to make career choices based on affordability, rather than aptitude or interest. This is contrary to the societal goal of providing equal access to higher education to every qualified member of the community. Moreover, students graduating from university programs that charge higher tuition may choose higher paying jobs in the private sector to pay off loans, rather than choosing service positions such as careers in public service.

Many schools including most of the Big Ten schools have a tuition differential at least for undergraduate business majors.

Case 2: Obese Airline Passengers

Irish airline Ryanair recently raised media attention by suggesting that it may implement a surcharge for passengers above a specified weight limit or waist circumference. According to a representative, one in three passengers surveyed favors an extra fee for overweight passengers.

In response to this so-called “fat tax” some have argued that extra fees amount to discrimination against the obese.

Most U.S. airlines have policies regarding seats for obese passengers; however, these policies are not well publicized. Defending this tendency to be secretive, airline companies state that they prefer to be discreet about announcing this particular area of policy because their onsite workers try to find comfortable seating for all passengers if they possibly can do so. Southwest Airlines, for example, places its Obese Passenger policy on its website.

The lack of a clearly communicated policy on obesity, though, can result in obese people being bumped to a later flight or hit with a double fare or both, due to lack of information. In fairness, this would be likely to occur only with an inexperienced passenger, since agents in the airports usually inform the client, diplomatically in most cases, of the requirements. Most airlines now require obese people to purchase two tickets in coach. Usually the company refunds the extra fare if the flight does not fill up, making that second seat available. If the negotiation occurs at the gate, no extra fare changes hands if there are empty seats. On the other hand, boarding-time decisions have included incidents of humiliating treatment of passengers, who are called out from the line and confronted in public with their extra-fare obligation, and an option to stand by for a plane offering extra seats.

Passengers who are 6’5” and taller are also met with problems of inadequate space on planes. However, they do not encounter policies requiring them to arrange appropriate seating for themselves, e.g. by obtaining aisle or emergency row seats, preferably in advance. One obese passenger states that he observed a seat being taken out in a bulkhead row, to allow a tall passenger his leg-room, while he, the fat man, had been offered no comparable accommodation. “Normal sized” passengers have claims to comfort and safety, as do the obese; legion are the reports to airlines of the many experiences of discomfort, and even embarrassments, that have occurred from being seated next to obese people. This is not always a blanket issue of equitable enjoyment of the space; for example, a thin person might have a chronic shoulder or back disorder that requires her to favor one armrest, or else expect proportional support from both. She requests aisle seats for every flight, but cannot always obtain them. If one or both armrests has in effect disappeared into the flesh of another, the back-pain surges up needlessly, and she either suffers in silence or files a complaint. Many slim passengers do not complain and in fact they quietly sacrifice some of their seating space with compassion and empathy. Still, it is they, not the airlines and not the obese people, who pay for extras the overweight people receive.

In January of 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the “one person, one ticket” policy that has been the touchstone of passenger services since commercial aviation began. The Court said it is discrimination to require extra fares from the differently-abled, including those who are obese because of an illness and/or medically recognized condition. As of January, 2009, Canadian companies must provide a second seat free for disabled passengers. The firms have complied, but they require medical notation, weeks in advance of the flight, of the disability or of the obesity’s medically-recognized origin. They supply a form for physicians to fill out, including instructions with a diagram on how to “measure the obese person’s butt.” Obesity remains a controversial subject. Some argue that most obesity results from poor individual choices, including excessive calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle. Others believe that obesity more likely results from genetic makeup, metabolic disorders or illnesses, or social conditions for which obese individuals should not be held responsible.