WMU News

WMU team captures third place in ethics bowl competition

March 5, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A group of Western Michigan University students captured third place among 18 national universities in the fourth annual intercollegiate ethics bowl in Dallas Feb. 26.

Held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, the bowl is coordinated by Illinois Institute of Technology and sponsored by Sears, Roebuck and Co. It brings together undergraduate students in teams of three to five peers to compete in quiz games that pose ethical questions on a wide range of topics.

Finishing first was the U.S. Military Academy followed by the U.S. Air Force Academy. The WMU team missed the second-place finish by just a half point.

"The students learned, they had a chance to show what they have to offer and they had fun -- that's what we wanted," says Dr. Sandra L. Borden, WMU assistant professor of communication and faculty adviser to the WMU team. "They also had a chance to get feedback and a sense of what others are thinking about these issues."

Members of the WMU team were: Eric M. Fitzwater, a senior majoring in broadcast and cable production from Frankfurt, Germany; Maxwell J. Goss, a senior majoring in history and philosophy from Charlevoix; Tamera K. Vineyard, a sophomore in pre-law and philosophy with a concentration in ethics from Flint; and Matt M. Walderzak, a sophomore in pre-law from Frankenmuth.

The WMU coaches were Kimberly L. Hellmers and Barbra A. Jotzke, both WMU graduate students in philosophy and research assistants in the WMU Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

"The ethics bowl gives students a chance to work together on trying to solve difficult real life ethical situations, many of which they may one day face themselves," says Jotzke. "They also have the chance to attend a conference with many leaders of not only the academic world of professional ethics but also with professionals in a variety of fields."

Modeled after television's popular "College Bowl" game, the competition features a moderator who asks the team several questions that present various ethical dilemmas. The team has 60 seconds to confer before stating an answer and 30 seconds to answer follow-up questions from judges. The moderator will give an answer and the team will then have 30 seconds to agree or disagree with the position.

Judges grade the students on a point system for intelligibility, ethical relevance, avoiding irrelevance and judgment. The judges include philosophy and ethics professors as well as a variety of ethics professionals from industries like healthcare, law and science.

This year the questions involved such issues as whether items in which men excel on the SAT should be dropped to improve the scores of women and whether an ex-wife has a moral obligation to provide blood to her ex-husband, if she is the only known match.

Other participating schools included California State University at Chico, University of Colorado at Boulder, Dartmouth College, De Kalb College, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University (Chicago), Manhattan College, University of Montana, Ouachita Baptist University, St. Petersburg Junior College, San Jose State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Wesleyan University, U.S. Naval Academy and Wright State University.

WMU competed against Dartmouth in the first round and tied. In the second round, the team competed against Wright State University and won.

Media contact: Julie Paavola; julie.paavola@wmich.edu

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