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November 20th, 2008
Philosophy Department Ethics Bowl team wins regional, advances to national competition

The Texas State Ethics Bowl team, composed of philosophy students Jordan Albracht, Sean Batura, Nichole McNiel, Ben Sullivan, and Ryan Wieruscheske, competed against 14 teams from Texas and Arkansas at the Regional Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio on November 15, 2008 and won the first place trophy. The team will now advance to the national competition in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 5, 2009, where they will compete against winning teams from the ten regional competitions across the country.To prepare for the Ethics Bowl competition, each team receives in advance a set of cases raising issues in applied ethics on such wide-ranging topics as the classroom (e.g. cheating or plagiarism), personal relationships (e.g. dating or friendship), professional ethics (e.g. engineering, law, medicine), or social and political ethics (e.g. free speech, gun control, etc.) The team analyzes each case, identifying the core ethical issues and preparing a presentation arguing for the most ethical resolution of these issues.

The seven cases analyzed for the regional competition this year involved: medical outsourcing, toll lanes on highways, piracy off the coast of Somalia, an ultrasonic teenager deterrent, babies living in jail with their mothers, “nutraloaf” as a prison disciplinary technique, and the rights of Cherokee Freedmen.
Each round of the competition is based on two cases and follows a modified debate format, with a moderator first posing a question based on one of the cases to teams of three to five students. The first team to present (determined by coin toss) replies to the question, arguing for and justifying on ethical grounds their resolution of the case. The opposing team is then given an opportunity to rebut or qualify this answer, and the first team then responds to this rebuttal. A panel of judges follows up by probing the teams about further implications and justifications, after which they evaluate the performance of both teams according to the rating criteria of intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness. The teams then switch sides for the second case in the round.

Sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) is a team competition that combines the energy and stimulation of a competitive tournament with an interactive approach to education in applied ethics for undergraduate students. Recognized widely by educators, the IEB has received special commendation for excellence and innovation from the American Philosophical Association, and received the 2006 American Philosophical Association/Philosophy Documentation Center’s 2006 prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. The format, rules, and procedures of the IEB have been developed to model widely acknowledged best methods of reasoning in practical and professional ethics.

The Texas State team will begin work early in January on a new set of 15 cases for the March national competition in Cincinnati.

by Jo Ann Carson
Texas State Department of Philosophy

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