Inside USD

Bowling for Ethics

Friday, March 27, 2009

ethics-photoIs it okay to lie on a job application to keep from being considered overqualified? Did the Federal Bureau of Prisons do anything wrong in censoring the number of religious texts in its libraries to prevent inciting terrorist attacks? And is it ethical for a reporter to withhold information to protect a source?

These were just some of the ethical dilemmas facing a team of University of San Diego students who participated in the 15th annual Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl competition in Cincinnati earlier this month.

Before the competition, each team receives a set of cases raising issues in practical and professional ethics and prepares an analysis. At the competition, a moderator poses questions, based on a case taken from that set, to each team of three to five students.

Questions concern ethical problems on wide-ranging topics from the worlds of academia, personal relationships, professional ethics, and hot-button social and political issues. A panel of judges probes the teams’ responses and rates them for thoughtfulness, intelligence and ethically relevant considerations.

USD’s team got to the national competition by winning a regional competition last December. At the national event on March 5, the team of Courtney Holtz, Megan Clift, Kyla Glover and Carolyn Straub placed 15th out of 32 teams from around the country.

“We had a lot of fun and were definitely challenged,” said Holtz, a sophomore majoring in communications studies and Spanish. To get to the finals, teams needed to win at least two of the first three rounds of the competition. The USD team won one round and lost the next two by just one and two points.

Mark Woods, USD associate philosophy professor, said he was honored to coach the team. The students “embody the finest intellectual values and virtues possible, and USD can be proud for having such an excellent group of students. They learned ethics in a unique manner that they will carry with themselves for the rest of their lives.”

This year’s winner on March 5 was Indiana University, with last year’s champion, Clemson University, coming in second. The competition is held each year in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

— Liz Harman

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