The Amateur Ethicist
Your fifth grade teacher was wrong. There are such things as stupid questions. I have no idea why it rains so much in Carlisle, or why we have a huge red shark in the middle of the pond by the Kline. But I'll answer any and every one of your ridiculous questions. Good luck not failing your midterms.
-The Amateur Ethicist
I'm a freshman and I was assigned a roommate who I really do not get along with. She's pretty much the creep of our dorm, the kind of girl you dread running into in the bathroom alone and avoid eye contact with in the hallway. Yeah, that's my roommate. She often gives me unreasonable requests, and rarely leaves the room, so my friends can never come over because they don't to be in close proximity with her. Worst of all, since she barely leaves, the room has developed a mysterious odor coming from her bed. She has mentioned to me that she is allergic to perfume, but the smell is so bad that I can't help but spritz her side of the room every time she is out. I know she is allergic, but I can't stand this raunchy smell any longer. Are my actions unethical?
- Sincerely, Raunchy Roommate
Dear Raunchy Roommate:
Many an unfortunate freshman has had to suffer the situation with which you are faced, but I'm sure you have come up with ways to enjoy your time at Dickinson despite your roommate...the hopping frat life, for example. Or boardgames.
You sound really fed up with her, and no one wants to have the stigma of having the “creep of the dorm” for a roommate. Your roommate might be a psycho killer, and since I do not know her I cannot vouch for her character, but don't have such little faith in people. Instead of sending clandestine emails to a certain alternative monthly newspaper columnist, how about actually confronting the smelly girl herself?
For now let's assume that your roommate is not a vindictive troll, and return to the ethical question at hand. You are knowingly doing something that endangers the health of another person. I reference sacred 80s movies logic in comparison: in Heathers, when J.D. puts cleaning fluid into Heather Chandler's drink, he knows that she's going to get really sick, or die. Sure, Heather was a “total mega-bitch” but his actions were clearly unethical. What you are doing now is no different, just a little less psycho-murderous. Think about the magnitude of her potential reactions to an allergic substances. That kind of stuff can get pretty ugly, coughing, sneezing, hives, throats closing up, death. The kind of things no one really wants going on in their room when their trying to watch the new episode of Lost.
Speaking of allergic reactions, you didn't mention whether you have observed any symptoms from your reeking roommate. Perhaps she doesn't actually have an allergy, just a dislike of perfume...or maybe just your perfume. In this case her actions would be unethical too, but unfortunately for you, the two don't cancel each other out.
Instead of sneakily spritzing your favorite scent, you could consider doing something that does not risk serious consequences. Try talking to your roommate if you can bear facing her. If not, buy an air freshener or something.
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