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Glenda Murray
The Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions

Last modified: Monday, November 26, 2007

IU team wins Ethics Bowl regional

Nov. 26, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Ethics Bowl team, sponsored by the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at IU, won the fall 2007 Ethics Bowl Regional in Indianapolis on Nov. 10, beating 14 other teams and earning the opportunity to compete in the national event in February.

Indiana University Ethics Bowl team

Indiana University Ethics Bowl team, sponsored by the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions.

The Ethics Bowl team members are: Andrew Hahn, a sophomore majoring in political science and ethics; Megan Robb, a senior majoring in English and India studies; Sam Ross, a senior majoring in political science and English; Neil Shah, a junior majoring in mathematics, finance and economics; and Emma Young, a senior majoring in religious studies.

Early each fall semester Poynter Center administrators post an announcement that applications are being accepted for the five-member team. Applicants are interviewed and selected by the current team coach and a previous coach. Three team members returned from last year's team, and two new ones were added this fall.

Young will be competing in her fourth national Ethics Bowl, and Shah and Robb are competing for the third time in their university careers.

Robert Crouch, a research assistant at the Poynter Center, is the coach for the IU Ethics Bowl Team, and Sandra Shapshay from the Department of Philosophy is the 2007-08 faculty sponsor.

Team members meet two or three times a week during the five or six weeks leading up to the competition, and each is responsible for researching three different policy cases from a list of several ethical issues the team may be asked about in competition.

In the regional competiton, IU's team was asked to respond to the following cases.

  • "Is revisionist history justified?" The IU team was asked to respond to a case in which Japanese textbooks have been modified to downplay or omit the brutality of Japanese soldiers during World War II toward people in China and other parts of Asia. The IU team responded that revising history to omit bad actions is not justified and explained why.
  • "Is differential undergraduate tuition justified?" This case addressed the idea of charging more tuition for some majors than others. The IU team argued against differential tuition, suggesting that having additional charges for specific classes was a fairer approach.
  • "Should Intelligent Design be taught in public schools?" The IU team argued that intelligent design should not be taught in science class, because it's not scientifically based, but it could be taught in humanities classes.

At the national competition on Feb. 21in San Antonio, 32 participating teams will compete in three rounds in the morning. The teams are given thirteen complex ethical and policy cases to study in advance of the competition, though they are not told which questions they will be asked about any case.

For each match, one team is required to present a view on a case and then respond to questions from the opposing team and judges. Then the roles are reversed, and the opposing team presents an argument surrounding a 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 top eight teams advance to the quarterfinals, which are held in the evening. In past years, IU teams usually have scored high enough to compete in the quarterfinals.

Presented annually by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Ethics Bowl competition is a method of involving students in viewing difficult situations from a variety of perspectives.