GSU Philosophy Students Compete in Ethics Bowl

Dr. Cohen (far right) and some of his philosophy students at the 2012 Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl.

A group of eleven students from Dr. Andrew I. Cohen’s Ethics and Contemporary Public Policy class traveled to Clearwater, Florida for the 2012 Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl. This annual competition features teams from throughout the southeast that spend weeks researching and practicing analysis of 15 cases dealing with issues in practical ethics and public policy.  The teams are scored by judges who evaluate on criteria such as persuasiveness, sensitivity to ethical issues, responding to likely objections, and cogency of argument.  

This is one student’s account of the experience.

My Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl  by Jamie Moon

Our first team was seated amidst our wishes of “good luck” and “you guys will do great” as the rest of our group sat behind and to the side of the u-shaped competitive arena. The judges were seated at the base of the horseshoe with each team facing the other across the middle. The moderator stood off to the side and dispensed instructions, managed the timer, and otherwise oversaw the proceedings.

Some students were nervous, others were more serene. Everyone was excited to compete; we had all put a lot of effort into preparing for the competition and we were looking forward to seeing how things turned out. We were all eager to perform well.


Blog author Jamie Moon (far right) with other members of the GSU ethics bowl team.

The first case was on the ethics of schools regulating their staff and student’s use of social media. Our team was the first to present and we talked about concerns for privacy, the role of the teacher in the classroom and society, and gave some thoughts on how to balance those concerns. Our opponents, a team from the University of South Carolina at Aiken, responded with their concerns and comments about our remarks. We finished by addressing those concerns and clarifying our positions as well as time would allow. The judges finished up by asking us questions about our position and its implications. Once our time was up, the process began again — except this time our teams switched roles with our opponent in the role of presenter and our team in the role of friendly critic and collaborator.

Each of the three matches followed this format and each time our team performed well. We even won two of our matches. However, for me at least, the match that most defined the competition was the match against the University of Alabama at Birmingham — the match that we lost. Even though we did not win against UAB, our match highlighted what is special about the ethics bowl: it is a chance to discuss real and important issues in a manner that is respectful and honest. It is not about proving the other teams even though we admit that we do not have them and that we may never be sure we’ve found them. Having the opportunity to do that with other students in this respectful and honest way is a unique and valuable experience — we all came away from the match feeling like what we did was meaningful, regardless of whether or not we won. We had the opportunity to do something important, to be part of a discussion. That is why we came to the ethics bowl. That is why we’ve chosen to do philosophy.

The GSU team did very well. They competed in 3 rounds, winning 2, and losing one round to UAB, a previous national championship team.  They plan to compete again next year.