UR Collegiate Ethics Bowl team took second place at the Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl Competition on Feb. 19.
The competition was held at Union College in Schenectady. Six teams competed – teams from Boston College, Marist College, Dartmouth College, UR’s team and two teams from Union. Dartmouth took first place.
Team captain and senior Lewis Powell was the spokesman for the team. “It went really well,” he said. “It was the first time we had done anything like this, [but] we took second.”
The team has five members, comprising Powell, seniors Ethan Craig, Danielle Friedman and Patrick Brennan and junior Tim O’Brien, all of whom are philosophy majors.
The team was coached by Professor of Philosophy Randall Curren and philosophy graduate student Andrew Cullison.
“We’re delighted with our success our first time out,” Curren said. “It was pretty exciting, and a great showing [the] first time out, and we’re hoping to keep it going next year.”
The team felt that they had worked hard to earn their highly-placed finish.
“It was surprisingly close,” Craig said. “We were good. [Dartmouth was] very prepared.”
“It went really well,” Curren said. “There were six teams, and [UR’s team] won three rounds, and they were just narrowly edged out by Dartmouth.”
UR’s involvement with the Ethics Bowl was inspired by Curren’s experience at last year’s competition.
“I was invited last year to be a judge at the nationals. The competition runs the whole first day of the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics,” he said. “So that was my introduction to it. I got back and I thought this is pretty neat.”
Explaining the process of the actual competition, Craig said that each team essentially got 15 little cases, which were real life ethics cases.
“Some of them were from the news,” he said “[For example] one of them was about Nathaniel Heatwole, the guy who brought box cutters on planes – this was a few years back, he put box cutters on a plane to test the security.”
Craig continued to say, “We got the cases about a month in advance, and then we prepared just like in debate. We evaluated the pros and cons of each – we basically pick a side and defend it. In the competition, the way it’s set up is essentially, for each pairing you have teams. Each had to give a 10 minute presentation on one case. Then the other team gets to make a five-minute response to you, then you respond to the other team and then the judges grill you with a few direct questions. So, that’s basically the format.”
“They’re all very interesting cases,” Curren said. “It’s a team of ethicists who develop the cases for the national competition, but then the regionals use them too. The way the scoring goes, it’s all based on the quality of the ethical analysis.”
He also outlined the difference between an ethics discussion and a debate.
“It’s not the kind of rapid-fire debate where you take one side or another,” he said. “It’s got a lot more nuance and complexity to it, and the scoring makes everyone focus on trying to think through the cases in a principled way and try to defend your answer in a way that’s sensitive to both the relevant ethical principles and also to the nuances of the cases. There’s a real art to that, and personally I feel, as a professor who teaches ethics, I think it’s really great.”
The team received a plaque for their performance. The National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl takes place annually.
“The competition runs the whole first day of the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics,” Curren said. However, the regional competition takes place separately from the national competition and has no affect on which teams compete in it.
“Unfortunately, the way it is now, there’s no connection between regional and national,” Craig said. “There is a national competition, but essentially [you just] enroll in it. There are areas where there are connections between regionals and nationals, but our area doesn’t have one.”
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