DATE: February 28, 2008
Charles Starkey, (864) 656-1128
Ross Norton, (864) 656-4810
Clemson wins National Ethics Bowl Championship
CLEMSON — The Clemson University Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl team recently returned from San Antonio, Texas, with a national championship trophy.
The 14th annual National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl pitted 32 teams from across the country that earned their way to San Antonio by outperforming more than 100 other colleges and universities in regional competition.
Clemson won by defeating finalist Wright State University in the championship round and Westminster College in a semifinal round.
Clemson’s team has built a strong reputation in recent years by routinely defeating teams from more established programs.
“I’ve been very impressed with our team,” said coach Charles Starkey, assistant professor of philosophy. “The preparation is challenging: in the first weeks of the semester we put in as much time as we would on a semester-long course. But the payoff in terms of presenting a polished, articulate case is great.”
Clemson is the only team in the nation to reach the quarterfinal rounds at each national competition in the past five years.
“I’m happy for the students because the trophy is much deserved. They’ve worked hard and have consistently been among the best in the nation,” Starkey said.
The National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl takes place in tandem with the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE). Students debate current public policy issues such as organ donation, computer privacy, the advertising of prescription drugs, corporate sponsorships of college sports and the marketing of junk foods to children.
The Ethics Bowl is modeled after the College Bowl competition.
For the national competition each team receives 15 case studies prior to the competition. Each case study involves an ethical dilemma on which the team must develop a position. In preparing the case, they apply relevant ethical theories and do research that allows them to incorporate a host of relevant information such as legal principles, scientific facts and sociological observations that pertain to the case.
In each round of competition, two teams face off, responding, in turn, to a case-specific question; they have 10 minutes. The other team offers a five-minute critique to which the presenting team responds. This response is followed by 10 minutes of questioning by a three-judge panel. The roles of the teams are reversed for the second half of the round, which deals with a different case. The judges evaluate each team’s performance for clarity, its focus on ethically relevant factors, the strength and cogency of the arguments and deliberative thoughtfulness.
“The teamwork and cooperation among the team members was excellent as well,” Starkey said. “Indeed, one of my favorite aspects of coaching the team is the preparation: working closely with each of the students to help them do their best. We spend hours debating the various cases, and as the debate goes on, the ideas flow, thoughts are refined and the arguments improve. Students come to appreciate and understand the subtleties of cases and, at the same time, they learn the strengths and weaknesses of the various ethical theories they bring to bear in grappling with the issues. In this way it is like an intensive seminar in applied ethics.”
Other teams competing at the competition included Indiana University, USMA (West Point), the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Florida and Williams College.
Clemson took second place last November at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ethics Bowl in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The team consists of Alyssa Mander, a senior majoring in English, from Winter Springs, Fla.; Matt McAlister, a senior majoring in philosophy from Greenville; Philippa Lieber, a senior majoring in philosophy from Salt Lake City, Utah; Rahul Loungani, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry, from Columbia; and Daniela Scoggins, a senior majoring in philosophy, from Pensacola, Fla.
The team was assisted by Tracy Lamb, a senior majoring in philosophy from Greenville; Daniel Pietrucha, a sophomore majoring in financial management from Bennington, Vt.; Caroline Rash, a junior majoring in Spanish from Clemson; Brad Saad, a freshman majoring in psychology from Greenville; and Ian Wood, a sophomore majoring in computer science, from Moore.
Starkey also is a fellow of the Rutland Institute for Ethics at Clemson. He was assisted by Rutland Institute director Dan Wueste and Rutland Fellows Steve Satris and Kelly Smith. The team is sponsored by the Rutland Institute and the department of philosophy and religion.