Students ranked fourth in nation following victory
April 6, 2017
A Santa Clara team finally brought home a trophy.
Members of the Santa Clara Ethics Bowl Team are the newest heroes on campus, following their historic fourth place win at the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in Dallas on Feb. 26.
They achieved the highest finish of any California team in the history of the Ethics Bowl, losing to the United States Military Academy, the eventual winners, in the semifinals.
“I’m really impressed with the students we have here … The students that we’ve had have really thrown themselves at the class, at the project, at preparation,” said Erick Ramirez, assistant professor of philosophy and the team’s coach. “It’s amazing that we have students who are willing to devote the time to do this, and it’s cool that their efforts pay off.”
The Ethics Bowl is a unique competition. Each team is given a different ethical dilemma and then asked to formulate a strong argument for an assigned perspective on the predicament. A panel of judges then reviews the argument and determines a winner.
Ramirez said that Ethics Bowl is his favorite class to teach.
“It’s not really a debate competition,” Ramirez said. “The Ethics Bowl is a really hard confrontation with real world moral problems.”
Alumnus Patrick Coutermarsh, the business ethics program coordinator at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, serves as a coach for the team. As a student, he started competing in the Ethics Bowl in 2012.
According to Coutermarsh, the team has reached the top 10 in the National Ethics Bowl twice, a competition in which 32 teams are chosen to participate following regional ethics bowls.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of the Ethics Bowl is the difficulty of tackling politically relevant and thought-provoking ethical dilemmas in a competition setting. According to the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl’s website, cases cover topics such as lawsuit financing and payment for collegiate athletes.
During the competition, each team is given a different ethical dilemma that they immediately have to analyze and formulate a solution to.
The opposing team can then respond to the argument, after-which the first team rebuts the arguments of the second. Judges then interrogate the teams before moving on to the next.
Since teams do not know the questions they will be asked in competition, a large amount of practice is necessary in order to succeed. Members of the Santa Clara team said that during practice, much of the focus is placed on analyzing ethical dilemmas that do not necessarily have a yes or no answer.
They added that preparing to answer controversial questions is necessary for developing arguments in a high-pressure setting.
The now nationally ranked group of Santa Clara students made it clear that their success was the result of a true team effort.
The team is comprised of multiple smaller teams and three coaches, all of whom bring different arguments to the table.
Members of the team agreed that the different perspectives provided by the smaller teams were ultimately beneficial.Members of the team agreed that the different perspectives provided by the smaller teams were ultimately beneficial.
“Something I really love about this team is that even though we did argue quite a bit, I feel all that argument made our points ultimately stronger,” said Derek Sikkema, a sophomore and Ethics Bowl newcomer. “We each brought a different philosophical basis to argument.”
Looking ahead, the team plans to continue the momentum gained from this impressive result. They said that continual practice of ethical dilemmas, along with recruiting new members to account for the graduating seniors, will allow the team to maintain a strong presence in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.
Senior Alex Arnold, a three-year veteran of the Ethics Bowl, said competing in the event provides an opportunity for open dialogue.
“I’ve always done it because I really enjoy being able to have debates with other people, whether it’s in meetings, at competition,” Arnold said. “It’s just nice to be able to sit down and really talk about things in a forum that isn’t politicized, isn’t vilified. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The trophy that the Santa Clara team brought home is on display in the Philosophy Department on the second floor of Kenna Hall. Those interested in participating in the next Ethics Bowl can sign up for the team by registering for Philosophy 180.
Contact Grant Pustelnik at firstname.lastname@example.org.