University of Puget Sound places third at statewide Ethics Bowl
University of Puget Sound participated in the Ethics Bowl on April 4, a statewide debate tournament in which students from 10 colleges discussed topics that demonstrate their understanding of applied ethics.
The competition, presented by the Independent Colleges of Washington at Seattle University, consisted of three preliminary rounds, a semi-final and a final. In each round, two opposing teams of five students debated on the ethical issues presented in two cases involving actual or hypothetical scenarios. Students were judged based on their abilities to apply critical ethical reasoning to the presented issues. The team who best demonstrated these skills, and received at least a two-thirds majority vote from the panel of judges, advanced to the next round.
The primary topics of discussion centered around science and technology in the work place.
Participants included nine other independent colleges and universities from around Washington state: Seattle Pacific University, Seattle University, Pacific Lutheran University, St. Martin’s University, Heritage University, Walla Walla University and Whitman College.
Puget Sound placed third overall, defeating St. Martin’s, PLU and Heritage before losing to Gonzaga University in the semi-final round. Gonzaga then lost to the reigning National Champions, Whitworth College. This is only the second Ethics Bowl in which Puget Sound has participated, the first being last fall’s regional competition.
The Faculty Advisor for Puget Sound is Ariela Tubert, associate professor of philosophy. Professor Tubert has been working hard with her team all semester in preparation for the Bowl, teaching background information, reviewing methods of practical application of ethical theory and holding mock debates simulating the style of the competition.
Despite all the intensive preparation for the Ethics Bowl, Tubert had some reservations going into the event.
“Other teams were smoother in debate skills,” Tubert admitted, adding with a proud grin, “but our team had better arguments. Overall, we did much better than I expected.”
This sentiment was shared amongst the debaters. When asked if she was surprised at the team’s third-place finish, sophomore Kayla Grueneich, one of seven members of the Puget Sound team, agreed that expectations were not very high.
“Going into the tournament, we were a little nervous because of how we did in the fall regionals,” Grueneich said, referring to Puget Sound’s first try at the Ethics Bowl last fall in which they did not advance past the preliminary rounds. “After the first two matches,” she added, “it seemed fitting.”
Grueneich elaborated that Puget Sound’s main challenge was everybody on the team agreeing on a stance for each case.
“We all knew about the cases [the night before],” Grueneich said. “But we didn’t know which side we would take as a team.”
In the semi-final round against Gonzaga, the cases focused on Bring Your Own Device, a strategy that encourages individuals in the workplace to bring their own laptops/tablets, and pharmacogenetics, which suggests that people will respond to different pharmaceutical drugs based on their genetic dispositions. Gonzaga barely won by a slim margin of four points.
Despite the challenges they faced, and the limited experience with the competition, the Puget Sound Ethics Bowl team surpassed prior expectations, demonstrating a strong sense of rhetorical skills against other experienced institutions.
The next Ethics Bowl will not be held until next fall, but after a promising second appearance, the school is looking forward to build upon their newfound success.