UM Team Wins International Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl

March 04, 2014

MISSOULA – A team of University of Montana students recently won the 18th International Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl after competing against undergraduate students from 32 different universities.

Students Hayden Hooker and Joel Johnson both are seniors studying philosophy; Alan Rolph is a senior studying political science and journalism; and team coach Neil Bennett is a graduate student pursuing a master’s in economics. This is the first UM team to win the competition since 1997.

Though it is common for Ethics Bowl teams to have a philosophy professor for a coach and to prepare for the competition through a credited course, the UM team prepared on their own, during time outside of class. During November and December the team advanced through regional competitions, and they won the final competition on Feb. 27 in Jacksonville, Fla. The 32 teams at the final competition all were regional champions.

In the Ethics Bowl, teams receive a set of cases in advance which raise issues in practical and professional ethics. The UM team had two months to prepare 15 cases.

“These cases were meant to have no direct ethical answer and ranged anywhere from bioethics to ethics in technology,” Bennett said. One case covered off-label prescriptions of anti-psychotic drugs, another was about naming parks after public figures with a racist past, and another was about use of drones in and out of warfare.

Teams prepare an analysis of each case, and at the competition a moderator poses questions based on a case from the set. A panel of judges may probe the teams for further justifications and then evaluates answers. Teams are judged on intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance and deliberative thoughtfulness.

Bennett competed as an undergraduate student in the Ethics Bowl two years ago, but as a graduate student she decided to continue her involvement by coaching.

“Most of the other teams were comprised of five members and some alternates, but we managed to win with the minimum number of people required, which is three,” she said.

The International Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl is hosted by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. For more information call Bennett at 208-529-6806 or email neil.bennett@umontana.edu.

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Contact: Neil Bennet, UM student and Ethics Bowl team coach, 208-529-6806, neil.bennett@umontana.edu; Paul Muench, UM associate professor of philosophy, 406-243-2351, paul.muench@umontana.edu.