In the group’s second year on campus, the Illinois Wesleyan University Ethics Bowl Team will enter into the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Tournament in San Antonio, Texas on Feb. 28.
The team’s coach and Illinois Wesleyan assistant professor of philosophy Emily Kelahan formed the team in the fall of 2011, with support from the Office of the Provost.
Assistant professor of philosophy Andrew Engen has since joined Kelahan as an assistant coach for the team, which includes Elmhurst native Geena Barry, a class of 2015 acting major.
“Joining the team has really improved my ability to create in-depth arguments," Barry said. "I’ve learned to delve much deeper into whatever topic I am considering and consider all layers of importance rather than simply analyzing the surface."
Kelahan’s decision to form the team was motivated by witnessing the success of an ethics bowl team during her graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, according to a press release.She describes the ethics bowl as an “intercollegiate activity in which students debate current ethical issues and that combines the excitement of a competitive tournament with applied ethics and ethical theory.”
Though the ethics bowl is closely affiliated with philosophical studies, the IWU team draws students from all different majors, said Kelahan, involving students from a variety of majors and class years. She notes that this diversity contributes to the success of the team.
“Having a team comprised of such a unique set of people adds so many different opinions and viewpoints to our discussion,” she said.
To qualify to compete nationally, the team must first successfully compete at the Central States Regional Ethics Bowl Tournament, this year hosted by Marian University in Indianapolis on Nov. 3.
In preparation for each tournament, the team receives 15 cases on various, current ethical issues, distributed by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE). The team described these cases as “torn from the headlines,” dealing with issues varying from animal testing to gay rights, racial justice, and taxation, to name a few. At the tournament, a handful of these cases will be selected for debate.
Along with meeting for regular weekly practices, the members said that they frequently meet independently, practicing for as much as an additional 8-10 hours per week. The members said they value the opportunity to build upon the academic skills they have developed in the classroom in an extra-curricular activity.
The refined analytical skills these students have developed have also affected their views on politics and world issues, specifically in this year’s presidential election, several members said. According to Kelahan, what is most notable is the students’ willingness to consider seriously other points of view.