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Last modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012

IU Bloomington student team reaches quarterfinals in National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl

March 29, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Ethics Bowl team from Bloomington advanced to quarterfinals of the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl this month after winning the fall Central States Regional competition in November.

This marks the fourth time IU teams have placed in the ethics competition; previous IU teams won the regional match in 2007 and the national competition twice, in 2004 and 2009. IU's Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions in Bloomington has sponsored the IU Ethics Bowl teams since 2001.

Ethics Bowl Team

The IU Ethics Bowl team for 2011-12 are IU Bloomington students, from left, Charlie Zhang, Grant Manon, Olufemi Taiwo, Sara Shapiro and Kyle Fletcher.

Print-Quality Photo

The National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl includes 32 teams from 10 regional events held across the country. The top eight teams advance to the quarterfinals. The IU team competed against Georgetown University, Colgate University and Brazosport College, winning all three matches. Indiana met Clemson University in the quarterfinal round, losing by one point. Clemson defeated DePauw University in the semifinal round and lost to Whitworth University by one point in the final.

Richard Miller, director of the Poynter Center and the IU team's sponsor, said, "The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition brings together the top teams in North America to test their knowledge and expertise. The IU team once again set a very high bar. The team's performance was a model of clarity, comprehensiveness and subtlety. I'm extremely proud of the team and the coaches. IU is fortunate to have such sterling representatives of its academic mission."

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 to analyze in advance. For each match, one team responds to a question on the selected case and then responds to questions from the opposing team and judges. The opposing team then presents an argument surrounding 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.

The IU team fielded questions such as "Would privatizing the lottery alleviate the moral concerns with state-run lotteries?" and "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?"

The 2011-12 IU Ethics Bowl team members are:

  • Kyle Fletcher, a senior from Greenwood, Ind., majoring in philosophy and economics
  • Grant Manon, a freshman from Kendallville, Ind., majoring in finance, political science and economics
  • Sara Shapiro, a senior from Newton, Mass., majoring in economics and philosophy
  • 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 also on the 2008-09 team. Manon and Zhang are new this year. The coach is Luke P. Phillips, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at IU Bloomington. Valerie Aquila, a Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism, is the assistant coach. The team adviser is Sandy Shapshay, assistant professor of philosophy at IU Bloomington.

Phillips, IU's Ethics Bowl coach for the past three years, noted that the Ethics Bowl competition sharply hones the skills of participating team members.

"When teams face off against each other, they must listen intently to identify the weak spots in the other team's arguments," Phillips said. "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 perspectives of others without taking the time to listen and understand.

"In struggling against each other, team members master the tasks of quickly discerning reasoning flaws and collaboratively improvising new arguments. Ethics Bowl teaches you to think on your feet, building social bonds among students at the same time."

For more information, contact Richard Miller,, 812-855-0261, or visit

The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions is supported in part by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at IU Bloomington. OVPR is dedicated to supporting ongoing faculty research and creative activity, developing new multidisciplinary initiatives and maximizing the potential of faculty to accomplish pathbreaking work.