APU students compete in Ethics Bowl

On Saturday, Dec. 1, a team of eight APU students competed in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl California Regional for the second time in the almost 20-year history of the IEB. The seven students and the team advisor traveled to the University of California Santa Cruz to represent APU in the competition.


“Some of the questions discussedat this regional were “To what extent should Guatemalan President Molina consider the interests of the United States in deciding whether to legalize drugs?”,“ Can rape humor be defended ethically?”,“ Should the U.S. Maternity Leave Act be amended to include paid maternity leave?”


According to Scott Rappaport, Arts and Humanities publicist at UCSC, the questions above are just a few of the questions posed to students who took part in the Ethics Bowl tournament hosted by the UCSC Philosophy Department.


In the Ethics Bowl Regionals, which are open to the public and take place between November and December, 10 regional Ethics Bowls take place at various locations throughout the United States. APU was part of the California regional, which consists of colleges typically from California and Utah.


This year’s California Regional Ethics Bowl included schools such as UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, University of Southern California, San Jose State, Santa Clara University, Cabrillo College, National Hispanic University, Santa Barbara Community College, Cal State Chico and Golden West College.


The Ethics Bowl is a competition designed to develop students’ analysis of and judgment on contemporary hot-button ethical issues. Students must analyze complex and compelling ethical dilemma’s facing contemporary society.


The format, rules and procedures of the IEB have been developed to model widely acknowledged best methods of reasoning in practical and professional ethics.


“APU’s competition in the Ethics Bowl is important for, at least, two reasons,” Associate Professor of APU’s Department of Philosophy Rico Vitz said. “First, it gives our students an opportunity to engage in challenging but civil public discussions of the kinds of ethical principles one finds in the Gospels. Second, and more importantly, it gives them an opportunity to manifest virtuous character and, in so doing, break some of the stereotypes, which many people have, of students from a Christian college.”


Vitz was the advisor for the APU team both this year and last year.


This year’s team was made up of Austin Humphrey, Bo Goss, Chris Waks, David Brown, Jon Monson, Justin Manassee  Tommy Charles and Ysabel Johnston.


“Rico helped us in this by challenging us to have a deeper understanding of the cases, to go beyond simply having more facts memorized than the other teams,” junior philosophy major Johnston said.


In order for APU’s team to succeed in the Ethics Bowl, Vitz assigned each team member specific ethical cases to practice.


Senior theology major Waks began preparing for the competition in August, two weeks before the semester began.


“We started by doing a general survey of ethical theorists like Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Locke, Rawls, etc.,” Waks said. “Then I began doing research for the cases that I was assigned, reading things connected to the cases like senate bills, school policies and whatnot to get a more broad understanding of the case.”


According to Johnston, after the team completed their studies in theorists and theories, as well as researching cases, the real preparation came.


“I prepared by questioning every detail of the cases, trying to understand the central moral principles underlying the issues,” Johnston said. “Then it was a matter of putting these principles to the test, knowing how to defend or attack them.”


The regional portion of the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl serve as the qualifier for the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Championship, an annual, national competition where the best 32 teams from around the country compete.


APU’s team did not qualify for the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Championship, but are proud of their outstanding presentations and are satisfied with the way the competition panned out, having won two out of three rounds of the competition, winning the first round by 15 points, and the second round by 14 points, and losing the third round in a very close, split decision by only two points, leaving them in fifth place — the teams that took places one through four moved on to the championship.


The team was also glad to have accomplished goals they set prior to the competition such as to manifest Christ-like virtues in all their interactions as well as to manifest intellectual virtues by presenting excellent cases, making excellent counter arguments to their opponents’ presentations, and offering excellent replies to their opponents’ objections.


“We are some of the very few students who can say they can go toe-to-toe with teams from some of the most prestigious (and largely secular) schools in CA, defending Christ-like virtues logically and successfully,” Tommy Charles a senior philosophy major said.


Waks, who was proud to have been on the team, believes they performed very well and cannot think of any instances in the competition when he thought he or his team members presented a case that needed to be changed. Waks will be graduating in May, and will miss being able to compete in the next Ethics Bowl.


“I wish I could participate next year,” Waks said. “Nothing was better than presenting a case and feeling like you knocked it out of the park.”