Meet The Fellows: Brennden Prohaska
The first time I encountered the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles was through a friend and suitemate. She had been taking a course where her and her fellow classmates design, develop, and host an ethics event for students. Every few weeks, the class hosted speakers with a variety of different backgrounds and experiences and my friend invited me to attend. Hearing the speakers’ stories, ideas, and discussions; I knew I had to get involved in whatever way I could. The class was the Daniels Ethics Fellows and when I had the opportunity to enroll in the class that following spring, I jumped on the opportunity.
Once I enrolled, I began learning more about the foundation of the class: the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles. I immediately noticed parts of my life where I used different ethical principles to inform decisions and interactions both in my personal and professional life. While I noticed all of these principles contributing to my ethical self, the one principle I find particularly difficult but perhaps the most important in today’s world is Accountability.
Accountability is defined by the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative as being able to “accept responsibility for all decisions”. For me this has a key role in my professional life. As both a college student and an employee of my University, holding yourself accountable for your decisions and actions - both good and bad - is a necessity for my success and, I believe, lays the basis for the ethical principle of Trust.
Trust is a key principle in any work environment whether it be in a small franchise of a large fast food chain or in the highest levels of elected offices. By holding ourselves and others accountable, we develop and begin to maintain a relationship of Trust. Without Accountability, the idea of mutual Trust falls apart. When no one is held accountable for their actions - whether those be good or bad - there is no way to ensure that promises will be kept and no way to ensure work gets done taking life to a screeching halt.
On a more personal note, I - like many others - have found myself slipping behind in aspects of my life like work, classes, and social commitments. I think a lot of people right now are feeling a similar thing. When all you can do is stay indoors and wait for the chaotic world we find ourselves in today to settle, it’s easy to become preoccupied with anxieties over the future. For myself, when I let myself sit in that anxiety it can become all consuming and leads to missed deadlines on class assignments and work. I find that I can use the new situation we’re all finding ourselves in these days as an excuse to lower the bar I hold myself and my actions to. This slippage in how I hold myself accountable for my actions is unsustainable and damaging to those who rely on me for the work I do though.
One famous ethicist, Immanuel Kant, believed that there was a universal principle in all ethical decisions. The main idea is that if an action cannot become a universal reality without the world order falling apart or deviating from the world we hope to live in, then that act is unethical. I believe this provides a great way to look at accountability. It can seem silly at first when implying that missing deadlines in my workplace - both my classes, and my work in marketing for my university - represents a total breakdown in the moral fabric of our world. But when you ask yourself what would happen if everyone began doing this? What if our frontline healthcare workers decided to stop making it to every shift? What if our legal system decided to stop enforcing any laws? While the effects of me not holding myself accountable for the work I do might be comparatively small, should the world do the same, our idea of a fair and efficient world would cease to exist.
While times have been tough and uncertainty seems to have become the new certainty, the Ethics Fellows class has helped me use this time in lockdown to look inwards at my ethical self. Being surrounded by classmates in similar situations, all with a shared goal, has been an incredible benefit for me. The work we have put into this event and the effort we have put into the content contained in this event continues to amaze me. I am not only proud of my peers in Ethics Fellows for all they’ve done for this event but also for me. I am thankful for this class, my suitemate who introduced me to it, and the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Principles for helping guide my self reflection on ethics. But most of all, I’m excited for everyone to get to see the culmination of our hard work over these past months!
About the Author:
Brennden is a rising third year at the University of Denver. He is a pre-law student majoring in International Studies and Socio-Legal Studies with minors in Political Science and Chinese. He is currently working for the University of Denver's Office of Undergraduate Admissions on the Communications team and is also employed as a Campus Tour Guide. He is passionate about Ethics, especially in the legal field, and hopes to attend law school upon graduation from the University of Denver.