APU Ethics Bowl team competes in first intercollegiate competition

APU’s first Ethics Bowl team competed Saturday at the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl (IEB) California Regional, held at University of Southern California in Los Angeles. UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, CSU Chico, San Jose State University and several other schools were represented.


Although the APU team did not make it to nationals, they achieved all of their goals going into the bowl: to manifest Christ-like virtues in their interactions, to display intellectual virtues through their presentations and to win two out of the three morning rounds, beating UC Santa Barbara and CSU Chico and losing a split-decision to UC Santa Cruz.


The Ethics Bowl team formed this semester from a philosophy seminar class taught by Rico Vitz, a first-year associate professor of philosophy.


Vitz pitched the idea of competing at the IEB to his seminar class. The four officially enrolled students, along with three other students in the philosophy department, united to form APU’s Ethics Bowl team.


Austin Humphrey, a sophomore philosophy and political science double major is currently in Vitz’s Formal Logic class. Humphrey received an email from Vitz about the team and decided he wanted to be a part of it.


“What attracted me is being able to have a practical application of what I’m learning, and being able to articulate that through speech,” Humphrey said.


To prepare for the IEB, the Ethics Bowl team met twice a week for the seminar class and conducted oral presentations on specific ethical cases. The team members spent months in extensive research to prepare for the cases preselected by the IEB.


The first IEB was held in 1993 at the Illinois Institute of Technology with only four participating teams, all comprised of IIT students.


According to IIT’s Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, there are now nearly 120 schools that participate in 10 IEB regional bowls across the U.S. The top 32 teams from the regional bowls advance to nationals, which will be held in March 2012 in Cincinnati.


The rules and format of the IEB center around two teams of three to five students in each round. A moderator poses an ethically problematic question based on one of the preselected cases. Each team must present their thesis, listen to the opposing team’s critique, then respond to the comments and answer any questions the judges may have.


According to the IIT’s Ethics Bowl website, participating in the IEB develops students intellectual abilities and capacities, deepens their ethical understanding and reinforces their sense of ethical commitment.


Bill Montgomery, a senior political science major, believes that the competition expanded his ability to understand different perspectives.


“A lot of our arguments require an element of acknowledgement of other sides of arguments,” Montgomery said. “It kind of forces us to step outside of our own little box, and critically evaluate all ideas, which is really essential [in] learning about wisdom.”


Not only do APU’s Ethics Bowl team members strive to deepen their intellectual and ethical abilities, but they also keep Christian values and attitudes in mind.


“There’s a certain type of baggage that comes with ethics in Christianity,” junior philosophy major David Brown said. “We have this amazing opportunity to come into this secular, philosophical discourse and break the stereotype … we can say, ‘Look, here we are, Christians who think of ethical situations in an intellectual, academic and focused way that will rival our non-Christian competitors.’ We’re going to compete at their level and we’re going to do so with excellence because that alone is a witness to our Christian backing.”


At the competition, the team’s Christian values were tested when the moderators pulled them out of the final round last-minute, due to a mistake in the scoring.


“We had to get up and walk out, and it was kind of embarrassing,” senior biochemistry major Jessica DeWitt said. “But our number one goal was to exhibit Christ-like virtues … we’re really glad that the team that deserves to be in the final is in the final.”


“They were remarkable models not only of grace under pressure but of Christ-like virtues in exceptionally disappointing circumstances,” Vitz wrote in a post-competition email to the philosophy department. “We’ll see what the future brings for the Ethics Bowl team at APU … we may have just seen the beginning of something rather special.”