On Saturday, Nov. 5, the UCF Ethics Bowl team did it again. The team of five undergraduate students won the Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl for the second time in the last three years, with a final performance record of five-to-zero. They will go on to compete in the Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl next weekend at the University of North Georgia.
“Winning a championship brings prestige to the university, but more importantly, it shows a commitment to core virtues and educational practices central to democracy and our success in cultivating these virtues in the future leaders of our community,” says Michael Strawser, coach of the UCF Ethics Bowl and philosophy department chair.
The UCF Ethics Bowl, supported by the Department of Philosophy, the Burnett Honors College and the UCF Ginsburg Center, is a student development experience that prepares undergraduates to make moral decisions in the fields of law, medicine, business and the humanities. During both regional and national competitions, teams of students representing their universities debate a series of timely and universal ethical dilemmas.
The Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl, held this year at the University of North Florida, consisted of four rounds of debate culminating in a final round, with winners determined by several judges. UCF competed against Rollins College, University of North Florida, Santa Fe College and St. Petersburg College in the preliminary rounds, and against Georgia State University in the championship round.
“Participating in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl helps students develop their moral understanding and critical thinking skills, and their ability to engage in public speaking and consensus-building on some of the most difficult ethical issues facing us today,” Strawser says.
The team argued convincingly on a range of challenging cases. In the field of environmental ethics, students argued about what should be done with abandoned wells, and whether Lake Powell should be drained. Regarding animal ethics, students argued whether certain animals should be granted the same moral rights as a person, and whether research on non-human animals for the sake of knowledge is ethically justifiable. On other contemporary issues, students discussed the regulation of free speech on social media platforms such as Twitter. Five more cases were also discussed.
Nathan Sweetman, the UCF Ethics Bowl team captain, believes that his education in philosophy contributed to his success in the discussion.
“My philosophy education at UCF helped prepare me for this type of discussion by encouraging me to broaden my perspective by engaging in genuine dialogue with those who hold different viewpoints from my own,” Sweetman says. “Studying philosophy can feel abstract at times, but this competition showed that philosophy offers practical insight into the problems we face in everyday life.”
The UCF Ethics Bowl team consists of five undergraduate students from a range of academic disciplines. Cameron Garrow is a legal studies major with minors in philosophy and cinema studies, Azeem Hakim and Rishi Yarlagadda are biomedical sciences majors and Kennedi Ray is a philosophy and psychology double major. The team is coached by Strawser and Madi Dogariu, assistant dean of the Burnett Honors College.
“The diversity of viewpoints and lived experience in our team’s ethical reasoning helped Team UCF to stand out in the competition,” Sweetman says.
The UCF Ethics Bowl team has been competing regionally since 2004 and nationally since 2009. The team won the national Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in 2011 and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ethics Bowl in 2017.