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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl



Major: Philosophy
Hometown: Norman, OK

Year: Junior

The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl is a debate-style tournament that takes place across the world and challenges students to take an ethical stance on a complex case against another team. At the beginning of each school year, fifteen cases are released online and teams are formed within interested colleges. The teams then have about three months to prepare for the regional tournament, the winners of which will go on to the national tournament.

Each case is extremely interesting and some require additional research. Although the cases are released months in advance, no one on any team knows which cases will be chosen for the tournament, nor does anyone know what the question will be. For example, one of the cases assigned this year had to do with policies across the country that allow the killing of certain invasive species for the sake of species that had previously existed in that area. However, the question that was asked during the tournament had less to do with the case, but rather asked more broadly about the moral permissibility of preferring the wellbeing of one species over another species. So, although teams may know what the case is about, the case may end up being of little help when answering the question during the tournament.

This year, Fort Lewis College gathered a team of four students to compete in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in Boulder, Colorado on the weekend of November 14th. The team consisted of Ivie Crawford, Tyler Colle, one other student, and me. Our team advisor was Mark Mastalski, the Director of the Fort Lewis Leadership Center.

Since the beginning of the year, we’d been meeting up to discuss our cases and develop arguments for and against our positions. Our wonderful professors in the Philosophy Department also helped us think about our cases and even participated as judges in a scrimmage the weekend before the tournament to help us prepare for the format of the debates. Although we had prepared, we were all extremely nervous during the drive up to Boulder. We had heard rumors of some particularly aggressive arguers from years past and were worried that the competition would be more intense than we’d anticipated. During the entire seven-hour drive up to Boulder, we went through our cases and discussed in detail what we had prepared for the competition.

After a sleepless night before the tournament, we made our way in falling snow to the Ethics Bowl. Everyone was dressed in business attire and no one looked as nervous as we felt. I had a small internal anxiety attack around twenty minutes before the first round began. Feeling shaken by the competition, my teammates and I agreed that our goal would be not to place last in the tournament.

However, upon entering into our first debate with Metropolitan State University, we started to relax. It became apparent that everyone was nervous, regardless of how level-headed they appeared. Gradually, we got into the swing of things and began to feel much more confident about expressing our positions in the debates. We were found the winners of the first round and we moved on to debate Colorado School of Mines.

After four rounds -- against Metro State, School of Mines, Colorado State University, and then the Air Force Academy -- we were the only team that was still undefeated. After having stressed for weeks for the competition and feeling as though we may not be as prepared as some of the other teams, we were elated to have been favored by the judges up until the semi-finals. At this point, we were already guaranteed a spot in the national competition.

Although we ended up losing the semi-final round against Metro State University (the case we were assigned was especially difficult, and the Metro team’s presentation was wonderful), we, as well as University of Nebraska, were named the two regional winners who would go on to compete in nationals. The national competition will be held on February 22nd in Costa Mesa, California.

Participating in the Ethics Bowl was an amazing experience and absolutely worth all of the anxiety and preparation. My team and I were incredibly happy to have represented Fort Lewis College and the Philosophy Department in Boulder this past weekend and are happy to announce that we did not place last! I’d encourage anyone with an interest in debate to try to compete in next year’s competition.

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Tags: philosophystudent life