Ethics Bowl

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Whitworth University Ethics Bowl

The Ethics Bowl is a program that provides students an opportunity for academic competition. Each fall, five students form a team that competes at the Northwest Regional Ethics Bowl, in Seattle, where teams from colleges and universities throughout the Northwest vie to advance to the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, held each spring. In 2014, the Independent Colleges of Washington began offering a bowl each spring for the 10 private colleges in the state. So, ordinarily, Whitworth will attend three bowls during each academic year. Students prepare for the Ethics Bowl through ethics courses at Whitworth and through examining 15 public-policy cases generated by a national panel of professors and ethics practitioners.

Whitworth's interdisciplinary team comprises top students who have taken an ethics class and who are able to apply ethical theories in complex contexts. The team members have come from all class standings (freshman-senior) and from a wide range of majors, including chemistry, communication studies, English, philosophy, political science, psychology and theology. The team meets weekly for practice sessions and coaching by Whitworth faculty members. Individual students conduct research on assigned cases, and the team works together to develop skills in critical and analytical thinking, clear reasoning and public speaking.

In advance of each competition, Whitworth's team receives a set of ethical issues that they have about seven weeks to research, identify key principles, and apply ethical theory. In 2012 the team researched and analyzed 15 cases on  topics including multiuser online role-playing gamers who engage in virtual romantic and sexual relationships and then want to continue these relationships in the real world; a Mississippi governor who required a jailed sister to donate a kidney to her jailed sister as a condition of their prison release; the government using graphic pictures as warning labels on cigarette packaging; assessing the moral obligations of France and Italy to Tunisian refugees seeking asylum; states selling state-run lottery operations to private corporations; proposed limitations on whistleblowers in the meat industry; and weighing the benefits of destroying levees to save small towns at the expense of farmland.

At the bowls, a moderator poses a question to each team that is drawn from the cases the team has researched. The team confers for one minute and then presents a coherent answer to the question, demonstrating skills in policy analysis and ethical understanding. A panel of judges, who are typically ethics professors and ethics officers and practitioners with large organizations, rates each team's answer on the following criteria: intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness. 

Team History
2015 Second place at nationals, first in region, second in the Independent Colleges of Washington Bowl
2014 Tied for fifth place at nationals, third in the region, first at Independent Colleges of Washington Bowl
2013 Tied for third place at nationals; second place in the region
2012 National champions; second place in the region
2011 Tied for third place at nationals; second place in the region
2010 Third place in the region
2009 Tied for fifth place at nationals; first place in the region
2008 Third place in the region
2006 Second place in the region
2005 Third place in the region


Contact Information

Mike Ingram

Professor of Communication Studies

Keith Wyma
Associate Professor of Philosophy


Whitworth Ethics Bowl team dominates regional competition, qualifies for national tournament More...