Kamryn Schnieder ~ Copy Editor
On Feb. 27 and 28, the University of Lynchburg Ethics Bowl Team will be competing in the national Ethics Bowl competition.
They will be competing in a competition sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE). The team worked their way through 15 competitions to become one of the top Ethics Bowl Teams in the nation. They placed third in their regional competition, allowing them to participate in nationals.
Dr. Kicklighter, coach of the Ethics Bowl Team and a professor at the university, explained that the Ethics Bowl Team is a “group activity in which students research, develop positions, and debate on a multitude of ethical issues. We participate in three to four events throughout the academic year. For most of these, we are given a case packet about two months before the competition, and we spend practice researching, discussing approaches, and practicing debating our stance on these topics. Students take and defend whatever their stance is, rather than being assigned a position.”
The cases for these debates are chosen by a specific committee and are dependent on who is sponsoring or hosting the meeting. Kicklighter added that, “the regional and national competitions that we are doing have cases on almost every ethical topic you can think of! We also do one competition that is focused on bioethics specifically, but even there the cases are wide ranging.”
For the national competition, Kicklighter revealed that the team has been given “a packet of 17 cases on a huge variety of topics including business ethics, bioethics, social media and privacy, politics, ethics in higher education, environmental ethics, and more” to choose from for the virtual debate.
In preparation for nationals, the students who are going to the national debate, Bea Kelly-Russo, Jack Schroeder, Jackie Wilson, Julianna Cameron, Maddie Miller, Becca Owens, Beth Roti, came back from break two weeks early for “ethics camp” since the competition is so close to the beginning of the semester” in addition to their typical practice for regionals.
Kicklighter expressed a large amount of praise for her team, she said she is, “so proud of this team! They are excelling in one of the most difficult years to be a college student and they have done so well. I cannot say enough good things about them!”
She expressed high hopes for them and hoped in the future “to be a regular contender at nationals, which means consistently placing in the top three at our regional competition. I would also love to see Ethics Bowl reach out to the campus more and hold panel discussions and mock debates for the campus community. This is something we did before COVID that I look forward to getting back to post-COVID. I would also love to expand the team so that we can include more people and perspectives. I also talked about starting an ethics bowl podcast with some of the team members, which I think would be a different way to promote the team and think through ethical issues.”
Maddie Miller, a sophmore, said “ Although I will not necessarily pursue this professionally, it will most certainly help me professionally, as it has helped me craft my own sense of morality based on actual ethical theories and given me critical thinking skills in a fast-paced environment.”
Miller is the secretary of the team now in her second year as a team member. She shared that some of her favorite topics in her time at the club were “the decriminalization/legalization of prostitution… the ethics of a law professor acting as a lawyer for another professor in a Title IX investigation…” and a topic on “the show Tiger King. I actually wrote a letter to Joe Exotic in prison and received a response. It was about as whack job as you can imagine.”
Miller revealed that the team practices by doing research for the cases we are presented… We find as much information as we can on all of the topics within the case. Then…come up with some basic theories and stances based on that information. After that, [Dr. Kicklighter] will ask us a question about the case, and we have to use our research and ethical theories to defend our answer.
She added that there is typically,“two to three weeks of research and then the rest of the time leading up to the competition is defending our stances to [Dr. Kicklighter’s] questions.”
Bea-Kelly Russo who is a senior and has been a member of the Ethics Bowl Team since her freshman year explained, “I never knew I would stick with it all these years, and I really just joined it for a challenging academic opportunity. I like to argue and I like to explore new topics, so it ended up being the perfect thing.”
Russo remarked, “Ethics Bowl has taught me that anything and everything can be an ethical issue. We have debated whether or not rivers can have personhood, what to do if aliens crash land on our planet, or whether or not someone can identify as “transracial.””
She said, “That had to be one of my favorite cases, about Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who managed to become president of a chapter of the NAACP and self-identified as black. “
Russo explained that there aside from more meetings and practices, the team has “reach[ed] out to people that the case talks about. For Nationals, we had a Skype call with a famous German artist, Simon Weckert who did “Google Maps Hack.”
She stated, “These [sorts] of interactions really give us a leg up on the competition.”
To read up on more details of the Ethics Bowl Team’s activity, check out this article: https://www.lynchburg.edu/news/2020/11/university-of-lynchburg-ethics-bowl-team-headed-to-nationals/, or look through their Instagram, @Epic_Ethics. For interest in joining or other questions, contact Dr. Kicklighter or the club members for more information.