After months of dedicated practice, a team of Utah State University students stood excited to see their work pay off as a panel of judges announced they took second place in the Wasatch Regional Ethics Bowl at Weber State University. This means they will be moving on to the national tournament.
“I was really proud of them” said Rachel Robison-Greene, advisor of the Utah State Ethics Bowl Team and a post-doctoral fellow of Philosophy within the Department of Languages, Communication Studies, and Philosophy. “Their work is truly admirable.”
Each week, team members spend up to four hours debating ethics. They research and discuss ethical dilemmas that could potentially come up in the Ethics Bowl, such as having children in the age of climate change, animal rights, and marijuana legalization.
Two USU teams competed, one of two students and one of four.
The procedure at each Ethics Bowl is that teams are given 10 minutes to research their case before discussing it with another team. Over the competition, teams are given 15 cases to discuss and are evaluated individually for each case. The USU teams competed against universities from Utah, Nevada and Colorado.
The bowl is similar to a college debate tournament with the exception that teams are encouraged to advocate for the position they personally agree with. If both teams agree on a position, they
debate the nuances and outcomes.
“The goal is to learn how to discuss a difficult moral issue with someone who might disagree with you,” Robison-Greene said. “It encourages active listening so that you're responding to the arguments of others and charitably trying to understand what they're really thinking.”
Robison-Greene said the Ethics Bowl is useful in helping students improve their debate and conversational skills, but it also gives students experience in expanding their minds and thinking more deeply about current events.
During this recent competition, teams were asked to debate “cancel culture,” a term originating on social media and used to describe boycotting an individual who has said something deemed offensive. Additionally, teams discussed social media rights to privacy and whether Facebook should ban certain voices that society deems harmful.
“These are all really important issues today, and they’re issues that deserve thoughtful discussion,” Robison-Greene said.
The four-person team taking second place in the regional bowl will compete in the national bowl held in Atlanta in February 2020. This is the third time in the last 10 years USU’s Ethics Bowl team has earned a spot in the national bowl.