February 25, 2010
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Students compete at national ethics bowl
The five-member student team is headed to Cincinnati on March 4 for the national championship.
After tying for the win this past November at the Rocky Mountain Regional Ethics Bowl, Metropolitan State College of Denver will send a team of five students to the 2010 Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) Ethics Bowl National Championship Competition in March.
The top-scoring teams from 10 regional Ethics Bowls — 32 teams total — are slated to compete at the daylong national bowl in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 4.
In the Ethics Bowl, a moderator poses questions about ethical problems on wide-ranging topics to teams of three to five students. The questions are taken from a set of ethical issues that teams have received in advance of the competition. A panel of judges evaluates answers; the rating criteria are intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance and deliberative thoughtfulness.
Metro State’s team includes students Alison Coombs, Robinson Phillips, Caleb Hardner, Jarryl Edwards and Kyle Whittier. Coaching the team is Assistant Professor of Philosophy Carol Quinn, who holds practice twice a week for an hour and a half, during which the students play different roles, such as judge or opposing competitor. They also present cases they have been working on for the competition.
After their invitation to the national championship the team received a set of 15 cases on Jan. 5. The topics range from the regulation of in vitro fertilization, popularized with the “Octomom” case last year, to the effectiveness of expelling students from public schools.
“In the competition, if we get called on, we present,” says Whittier about the individual cases the students have been working on. “Each member has an equal role in the team’s success at the competition.”
For the first three rounds a moderator asks one team a question, and the opposing team presents an argument against that statement. The first team is given a chance to refute that argument. From these rounds the top eight scorers will move on. A sequence of quarter, semi and final rounds follow to determine the national champions by the end of the night.
Not everyone on the team is a philosophy major. “They were chosen because they were the smartest, most charismatic and quickest on their toes,” says Quinn, whose two years of experience as an Ethics Bowl judge, as well as a coach of several teams for 10 years, has been invaluable for the team.
Quinn held positions at Santa Monica College, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before coming to Metro State two years ago as a tenure-track professor.
“I know what it takes to win, I know what the judges expect,” says Quinn. “There would be tremendous prestige in winning the bowl, for the students as well as the school.”
The tying team at the Rocky Mountain regional bowl, the University of Colorado Denver, is also headed to the national championship.