Students Place in Top Four at Ethics Bowl

News Story: November 25, 2015
From left are students Brendan Wardlow, Andrew Loughrane, Drew Winkler, Kristina Payne and Alexia Pappalardo. 

After much practice and hard work, students in Sacred Heart University’s Ethics Bowl debate team placed in the top four at the Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl Competition (NEREB) held earlier this month at St. Joseph’s College in New York. The Bowl took place at Sacred Heart the previous three years.

Twenty-six teams from colleges such as Tufts University, Dartmouth College, Villanova University, West Point, Colgate University, Marist College and Manhattan College participated in the NEREB. The bowl involves moderators asking teams questions on a variety of topics that pose ethical dilemmas. Judges then rate teams based on their responses.

The five SHU team members woke up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday to catch the ferry to Long Island so they could arrive at St. Joseph’s on time for the competition, said Ono Ekeh, assistant professor of theology and religious studies and co-coach of the team. Ekeh was at the competition with Co-coach Gordon Purves, assistant professor of philosophy, taking pictures and rooting on students.

The SHU team beat Villanova, Notre Dame of Maryland University and West Chester University of Pennsylvania in the first three rounds, Ekeh said. In the quarterfinals, the SHU team beat one of the West Point teams before falling in close debate to Union College in the semifinals. Tufts was the eventual winner of the competition.

In September, students were provided with 15 cases, Ekeh said. They practiced and prepared all semester so that they were prepared for any question about the 15 cases. Tough ethical questions were asked of the students at the competition, and they only had two minutes to prepare their answers.

SHU, along with West Point, Union and Tufts will represent the Northeast region in the National Ethics Bowl competition on February 21 in Reston, Va., Ekeh said.

“It is a significant accomplishment. We’ve participated in the competition four years now, and we understand how difficult it is to proceed to the top eight teams, much less the semifinals,” Ekeh said. “In every single round you are going up against very talented students, and you have to be at your best and sharpest. You also have to understand ethical theories and be familiar with contemporary events. So as you can imagine, this takes a significant time and intellectual commitment on the part of the students, and they rose to the challenge. They attended practices faithfully. They pushed each other intellectually and allowed us to challenge their thinking, and they understood that our practices were not about winning arguments, but learning. Their success is a major credit to them and to everyone at Sacred Heart who has had a hand in their collective formation.”

“It shows that we should feel real pride for our students because we can compete and excel against students from the best schools in the country,” Purves said. “The students themselves should also feel proud because they put in an enormous amount of work and critical thought and were able to see real concrete results.”