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The Carolina Forum for Ethics furthers the objectives of the Parr Center through the facilitation of informed, nonpartisan inquiry about ethical matters as well as thoughtful engagement with both the ‘Big Questions’ and the most pressing issues of our day. They accomplish this through discussions, guest speakers, films, and other events. They are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment open to all students, staff, and faculty.

Event Summary

The Daily Tar Heel Coverage

For their first big event of the semester, the Carolina Forum for Ethics, a student-led organization whose goal is the spread of discussion on ethical behavior, brought together experienced UNC faculty from the fields of mental health, social work, and advocacy for a discussion about self-care in today’s world. Included in the discussion were Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC, Jodi Flick, a professor in the school of social work, and Abram Milton, a U.S. Marine veteran and employee at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UNC.

The discussion delved into the work of each faculty member and their personal and professional approaches to caring for oneself. Dr. Phoenix discussed the implications of having a non-binary gender identity and fighting for equality while also making time for family and enjoyable activities. T also brought concerns about economic class and the limits of self-care within capitalist systems to the table, offering that “we have a very individualized idea of self-care.” Jodi Flick, who holds an M.S. in Social Work from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, discussed the approaches to self-care within the mental health field and her particular experience with self-care as a crisis counselor. According to Flick, “The best thing a human being can do for themselves is social connectedness, having warm, supportive, satisfying, compassionate relationships with other people.” Milton also brought to light approaches to self-care he has encountered in the mental health field, and particularly within UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services.

Following the discussion, which was facilitated by student leaders of the Forum, there was time for questions from the audience. Members of the non-profit Paws4People asked Abram Milton about his background in the Marine Corps, and the approach to self-care in the Armed Forces generally. He offered a nuanced response about the somewhat necessary culture of toughness that dominates the military and especially the Marines, but described ways in which the effects this culture can be mitigated once Marine soldiers (who are often subject to mental health problems) retire and attempt to re-enter civilian life. Following the discussion and question portion of the event, there was a “self care fair” involving multiple organizations whose mission or advocacy was related to self-care. Among the organizations present were the Carolina Women’s Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Student Wellness, OneAct, and Paws4People.

History of Self-Care Powerpoint 

About the Speakers

Jodi Flick is a licensed clinical social worker and has been in direct practice for 38 years.  She is on the faculty at the UNC School of Social Work and is currently teaching Mental Health First Aid training to all staff and faculty at UNC. She also facilitates the local Survivors of Suicide Loss Support group.

Abram Milton was born in Hollywood, Fla. He graduated from Charlton County Comprehensive High School in June 1993 and enlisted in the Marine Corps and underwent recruit training in August 1993 at Parris Island, SC. Abram served in the Marine Corps for 23 years as an information technology specialist and a communications chief before he retired and eventually settled in Helendale, California. Abram holds a Masters in clinical psychology from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. He now works within the UNC CAPS program.

Terri Phoenix is the Director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. T is an alumnus of East Carolina University (BA), UNC-Greensboro (MS), and University of Georgia (PhD). T served on the Executive Board for the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, as Chair of the Board of Safe Schools North Carolina, and on the NC ACLU Transgender Advisory Board.  Dr. Phoenix has 20 years’ experience working with youth in various settings including therapeutic group homes, detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, high schools, and non-profit organizations. T has given numerous invited and peer-reviewed presentations on cultural competency and inclusive practices at local, regional, and national conferences. Dr. Phoenix lives in Durham, North Carolina with T’s wife, Kendra and daughter, Duncan.

Videos & Readings

Ted Talks related to self-care

Why we all need to practice emotional first aid – Ted Talk by Guy Winch

What Self-Care Really Is” – Brianna Wiest

Self-Care from perspective of privilege to without” – Alexandra E. Petri

List of “bubble-bath” Self-Care Methods – Ellen Bard

Event Summary

The right to political participation is a basic human right.  However, like many others, this right is often lost (at least temporarily) when one is convicted of certain crimes.  According to the most recent available estimates, more than 6 million U.S. citizens are ineligible to vote because of a current or past criminal conviction.  In this session, we will discuss the main moral arguments for and against making basic political rights contingent on one’s criminal history. We will focus primarily on (1) whether or not the temporary or permanent loss of voting rights could be justifiable as a form of punishment, and (2) how we should understand the legitimacy of criminal disenfranchisement policies in the context of wider injustices in the creation and enforcement of criminal laws.

Steven Swartzer began with some background information on the voting rights of felons, including, “In the U.S., all but two states (Vermont & Maine) have restrictions on voting rights for those convicted of certain crimes,” and “…approximately 6.1 million U.S. citizens are ineligible to vote because of such restrictions.” Restrictions vary widely from state to state, but, overall, most inmates, and some parolees and probationers convicted of felonies cannot vote. This keeps millions of offenders from voting for multiple election cycles.

He theorized, “Loss of rights is considered justified only if it furthers the legitimate aims of punishment, being: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, and/or retribution.” The aim of deterrence is to scare people away from committing a crime. Incapacitation makes it harder for offenders to reoffend, usually through imprisonment. Rehabilitation is to reform the offender, to turn them into a productive member of society. Retribution is the idea that “people who do bad things deserve to have their rights and privileges taken away; however, the punishment should ‘fit’ the crime.” Swartzer questioned if any of these four legitimate aims of punishment are reasonably met through keeping offenders from voting.

Existing racial disparities add another layer of complexity to the mix. Swartzer quoted, “…in almost every year between 2003 and 2014, more than 85% of people stopped and frisked by police in NYC were black or Latino (and nearly 90% of these people were innocent of any crime)” (NYCLU 2014), as well as, “African Americans are about 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug violations than whites (even though African Americans and whites use and sell drugs at about the same rate)” (King 2008; Alexander 2012), and, “Average sentences for drug sentences are more than 50% longer for African Americans than they are for white offenders” (Motivans 2012). He extrapolated the results of this inequity, “These racial disparities in the criminal justice system mean that people of color are also more likely to lose the right to vote,” “Overall, about 2.5% of the U.S. voting age population is ineligible to vote because of restrictions (Sentencing Project): 1.8% of voting age non-African Americans are disenfranchised and 7.4% of voting age African Americans are disenfranchised,” and, “Nine states disenfranchise more that 10% of their voting age African American citizens; seven states disenfranchise more than 15%.”

The presentation concluded that it is unlikely that the U.S.’s stripping of voting rights is successful in any of its four aims. That said, it does have tremendous impact in other ways. Because, the incarceration rate is so racially inequitable in this country, the people who lose their rights are disproportionately members of a minority. This means that our political scale is tilted by our flawed criminal justice system.

Powerpoint Presentation


“Criminal offenders in the United States frequently lose important political rights, at least temporarily. This paper examines penal disenfranchisement as a case study in the non-ideal nature of criminal justice and its relationship to political and social power. I begin by offering a general argument against penal disenfranchisement that begins with the common observation that citizens of color lose their political rights at disproportionately high rates. This is problematic because, by further diminishing the political power of marginalized groups, disenfranchisement threatens to reproduce patterns of domination and subordination, when they occur. While this conclusion is itself important, the main argument also brings into focus pervasive idealizations within the standard philosophical discourse on punishment, and shows why such idealizations are not benign. For the example of penal disenfranchisement illustrates how these idealizations can systematically obscure normatively significant aspects of our standard penal practices.”

About the Speaker

Steven Swartzer received his PhD from the University of Nebraska in 2011; prior to joining UNC, he was a lecturer at the University of Nebraska, and the Assistant Director of Nebraska’s Robert J. Kutak Center for the Teaching and Study of Applied Ethics.  Steve’s primary research focus is in moral psychology, exploring the viability of anti-Humean views of human motivation that posit besires—beliefs and perceptual states that are capable of being intrinsically motivating. Steve is also interested in issues in political philosophy and the philosophy of law regarding social perceptions of criminality and various official and unofficial penalties (such as the loss of voting rights) that frequently accompany criminal convictions.

Other Works with Steven Swartzer

Punishment and Democratic Rights: A Case Study in Non-Ideal Penal Theory (forthcoming)

Appetitive besires and the fuss about fit (2013)

Recent News & Readings

How Letting Felons Vote is Changing Virginia (The Atlantic, Jan. 8 2018)

Felony Disenfranchisement Map (American Civil Liberties Union)