New Team Bowling Over the Competition

For the first time in the College’s history, a team of students competed in the Southeast Regional 8th Annual Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. The students, under the leadership of Dr. Seth Bordner, an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, traveled to St. Petersburg, Fla. in November seeking to reach the last round of competition that would qualify them for national competition.

The team had a strong showing, and beat out Samford University, which is considered a top 10 contender in the southeastern ethics bowl circuit. Ethics Bowl in this region is highly competitive, Bordner explained, with both of the last two national champions coming from the Southeast.

Prior to the event, teams are given 15 cases to study that can be related to a wide array of issues, such as cheating or plagiarism, ethics in dating or personal relationships, professional ethics as in law or medicine, or social ethics such as free speech and gun control, to name a few. The teams study the cases and prepare to present an argument about them at competition.

Once at the competition, a moderator poses questions about a case and the team delivers an argument. Their opponent can respond to the argument and then there is a rebuttal period for both teams. Each round of competition involves what Bordner characterized as “an intense hour of reasoned conversation.”

Judges evaluate each team’s answer on intelligibility, its focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness. Bordner said teams are not awarded points for their delivery style but, rather, the quality of their ideas.

At this year’s event, the UA team won its morning cases against Georgia State University and Samford University, but later lost in a close debate with Eckerd College, last year’s regional champion. Bordner said it was a remarkable showing for a first-time team, especially to knock off a top contender.

The College’s team has been preparing since September. Bordner said the team is enthusiastic, and there are more students in the group than can compete. He hopes this will lead to a strong tradition of success at future Ethics Bowl competitions.