IU Ethics Bowl team reaches quarterfinals of the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl
"Would privatizing the lottery alleviate the moral concerns with state-run lotteries?"
"If you were to propose a new bill regarding video and audio recording inside animal facilities, what principles would you use to balance the interests of animal rights proponents with the interests of business owners?"
These were two of the questions the Indiana University Ethics Bowl team fielded during the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl on March 1, 2012, in Cincinnati, where they advanced to the quarterfinals.
The National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl includes 32 teams culled from 10 fall regional events held across the country. The IU team competed against Georgetown University, Colgate University and Brazosport College in the morning rounds, winning all three matches. Indiana met Clemson University in the quarterfinal round, losing by one point. Clemson lost in the final round by one point to the winner, Whitworth University.
IU has hosted teams under the sponsorship of the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions since 2001. The current team won the fall Central States Regional competition in November 2011. Previous IU teams won the regional in 2007 and the national competition in 2004 and 2009.
The Ethics Bowl competition is an opportunity for undergraduate students to deliberate about and resolve difficult ethical cases and controversies. Each team consists of five undergraduate students who have received 15 cases in advance to analyze in light of the cases' ethical dimensions and tensions. The students are not told in advance what the questions will be.
For each match, one team is required to respond to the question on the selected case and then respond to questions from the opposing team and judges. Then the roles are reversed, and the opposing team presents an argument on a different case, after which they respond to questions. Teams are evaluated at the end of each match for the quality of their arguments, responses and counter-responses.
At the national competition, the 32 participating teams compete in three rounds in the morning and early afternoon. The top eight teams advance to the quarterfinals, which are held in late afternoon, with the semifinals and finals in the evening.
The 2011-12 IU team members were:
- Kyle Fletcher, a senior from Greenwood, Ind., majoring in philosophy and economics.
- Grant Manon, a freshman from Kendallville, Ind., majoring in finance, interdepartmental political science and economics.
- Sara Shapiro, a senior from Newton, Mass., majoring in economics and philosophy. She is also in the Liberal Arts and Management Program.
- Olufemi Taiwo, a senior from Carmel, Ind., majoring in political science, economics and philosophy.
- Charlie Zhang, a senior from Greenwood, Ind., majoring in economics, mathematics and finance.
Fletcher and Taiwo have participated in Ethics Bowl for three years. Shapiro was on the 2008-09 team as well as this year's team. Manon and Zhang were new to Ethics Bowl this year. The coach was Luke P. Phillips, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy. Valerie Aquila, a Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism and a former Ethics Bowl champion, was the assistant coach. The adviser was professor Sandra Shapshay from Philosophy. Richard Miller, director of the Poynter Center and faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, was the sponsor.
"One of the best features of Ethics Bowl is its competitive nature," said Phillips, the coach for the past three years. "When teams face off against each other as opponents, they must listen intently in order to identify the weak spots in the other team's arguments. Such critical listening is essential for the best kind of civil discourse, where unfortunately it is all too common for people to ignore or reject the reasons and perspectives of others without first taking the time to listen and understand them.
"But the best tactical approach is also a positive one in which the team elaborates, clarifies and augments the reasons expressed by the other team. So in struggling against each other, team members become masterly at the two spontaneous tasks of quickly discerning reasoning flaws and collaboratively improvising new arguments. Ethics Bowl teaches you to think on your feet.
"Furthermore, by pitting teams against each other in a spirit of friendly competition, it builds social bonds among the students and brings their hard work, intelligence and public speaking skills into high relief. The Ethics Bowl competition is a celebration of intellectual excellence."
Miller said, "The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition brings together the top 32 teams in North America to test their knowledge and expertise against each other and in the presence of several panels of judges throughout the day. The IU team once again set a very high bar for the competition. The team's performance was a model of clarity, comprehensiveness and subtlety. I'm extremely proud of the team and the coaches, and I count their performance as an unqualified success. IU is extremely fortunate to have such sterling representatives of its academic mission."