A team of five Whitworth students tied for third place at this year’s National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. The team went further in the competition than Whitworth has ever gone before. “I’m really proud of the students, and happy for them and how well they did,” said Keith Wyma, team coach and associate professor of philosophy.
The team spent two months preparing for Nationals, working with team coaches Keith Wyma and Mike Ingram. There were 15 ethical topics, called cases, to prepare. Two students were assigned to each topic, making each team member responsible for six cases. The case topics range widely, coming from controversial ethical issues in fields anywhere from bio-medicine to immigration to animal cruelty.
“It’s like debate, but instead of attacking the speaker you talk about the ideas,” said Krister Johnson, Whitworth sophomore and team member. “It’s philosophy-oriented, but deals with moral questions applicable to everyone.”
Each round in the competition involved two competing teams. One team is asked a question and allowed 10 minutes to respond. The other team is then given five minutes to critique and the original team is given five more minutes of rebuttal. Then the original team answers 10 minutes worth of questions from the judges. Finally, another topic question is presented to the other team and the process is repeated. At the conclusion of the round, the teams are judged based on how well they treated their individual issues.
Whitworth was one of 32 teams at Nationals, and competed against schools from all over the country and from different divisions. Other schools included Dartmouth University, Clemson University, Montana State University, the U.S. Naval Academy, University of Texas, Macalester College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“The Ethics Bowl allows us to showcase a Whitworth education and compete against schools from all around the country, and not just compete, but win,” Wyma said.
Wyma attributes Whitworth’s success to two things. The first is having two coaches in different disciplines. Wyma described himself as an ethicist, while Mike Ingram is trained in rhetoric.
“I think our students benefit from having an expert in both things they need to do,” Wyma said. “It’s the knowledge of ethical theory combined with the rhetorical clarity that makes our team strong.”
The second part of their success comes from a wide representation of majors across the team members, Wyma said.
“We have majors in philosophy, but also theology, English and pre-law in political science,” Wyma said. “This gives students a breadth [of topics they have experience with] to deal with the range of cases.”
Johnson largely agreed, recognizing the experience he gained and the personal skills he developed as a result of the team.
“I think we have an advantage as a small school,” Johnson said. “We were better prepared than some of the larger schools because our school cares enough to give us one-on-one attention.”
Along with Johnson, the team was composed of seniors Peter Dolan, Jared Lollar, Heather Wallace and junior Benjameen Quarless.