Jan. 29, 2016
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— For the third time in five years, the Ethics Bowl team at Illinois Wesleyan has qualified for the national Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition, to be held this year on Feb. 21. IWU’s team is one of only 32 in the country to compete in the national competition.
Ethics Bowl team members argue and defend their moral assessment of complex ethical issues pertaining to today's global society. Questions address a wide array of topics in business and professional ethics, in personal relationships, and in social and political affairs. Team coach Emily Kelahan said participating in Ethics Bowl events encourages students to look at difficult problems from the perspectives of those with whom they disagree. “Our team is very frequently composed of students with conflicting viewpoints,” said Kelahan, assistant professor of philosophy. She said the competition’s format also forces students to find common ground and build consensus about tough issues, often in a matter of minutes.
The IWU team’s third-place finish in the Central States Regional Ethics Bowl in November earned its spot in the national competition. Team member Nick Bates ’16 (Champaign, Ill.) said the regional competition featured topics such as police officers' rights, the composting of corpses, and the regulation of prescribed painkillers.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Andy Engen, the team’s other coach, and Kelahan said Ethics Bowl participation typifies the kind of personal attention and interaction with faculty members common at IWU and fosters deep and meaningful relationships among students and their peers.
Bates agrees. “I have made great friends through Ethics Bowl, and I am thankful for that,” said Bates, a philosophy major. “I am ecstatic we made it to nationals, and I can’t wait to see how we’ll do.”
The 2016 competition will be the second time attending the national contest for team members Steph McAtee ’16 (Papillion, Neb.) and economics major Eric Hyla ’16 (Lake Villa, Ill.). Other members include mathematics major Hang (Jade) Phung ’17 (Hanoi, Vietnam) and psychology major Anna Moczynski ’16 (Rockford, Ill.)
“Ethics Bowl is experiential learning at its best,” said Kelahan. “Students learn about abstract ethical theories in the classroom and then have to go before judges from far outside the ‘ivory tower.’ Students often have to justify health care reforms to CEOs of hospitals, defend the elimination of social programs to social workers, and recommend parenting techniques to parents. It’s one thing to develop a policy recommendation in the comfort of the classroom, but it’s quite another to justify it to the people who might actually be charged with implementing that recommendation in the real world.”
She noted the team is grateful for the support from the Provost’s Office and Student Senate for the opportunity to compete at the national level.
By Lydia Hartlaub ’16