Posted on Nov 19, 2009

The Union College Ethics Bowl team is the winner of this year’s Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl, an academic tournament that provides a forum and an opportunity for students to examine, in-depth, laws and ethics that govern society.

“Our students are confronting a rich variety of issues and developing moral arguments that draw on a wide range of disciplines,” said the team’s advisor, Mark Wunderlich, a visiting assistant professor in the Philosophy Department.

There were 18 teams representing 12 colleges and universities at the regional event. Union won its semifinal round against regional host Marist College and defeated Dartmouth in the final round.

Lativa Holder '10

As a result Union has been invited to compete in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl National Championship in Cincinnati in March.

“Philosophy is my passion, so winning the regional was everything I could have hoped for,” said Lativa Holder ’10, a philosophy major with a minor in mathematics. “I was especially proud to be a part of such a dedicated group of students. Ethics Bowl has given me a sense of purpose and camaraderie I've never experienced before.”

Also representing Union were Ian Clemente ’10, David Kanaan ’10, Hyma Kavuri ’10, Adam Koslin ’10, David Leavitt ’12, Jacob Pet ’12, Ryan Semerad ’13, Benjamin Setel ’13 and Ryan Vineyard ’12.

Cases explored the ethics of such issues as the increasing use by students of neuroenhancers, the illegal settlement of Kenyans in their national parks and the credibility of Internet “news.”

Students bring a variety of talents to the team, including public speaking, debating and analytical skills; creativity and mental agility; and the ability to work cooperatively with their peers. 

Prof. mark Wunderlich with Ian Clemente '10

“Our students’ success reflects their hard work, dedication and phenomenal ability to collaborate under pressure,” said Wunderlich.

Union participated in its first Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in 2003 and quickly distinguished itself as a top contender. In 2006, the Union team placed second at the National Championship.

“The Ethics Bowl means a lot to all of us,” said Leavitt, an economics major who joined the team as a freshman last year.  “We all realize that the moment we step into the debate, everything we do reflects upon ourselves – and on Union. We want to represent Union in the best possible light we can.”      

David Leavitt '12

In praising Wunderlich’s coaching, Leavitt said, “He pushes all of us to go further. Students walk away having had a great time and, more importantly, learning quite a bit about how to debate and present an argument.”

The Union team is funded by the Internal Education Fund, the Office of the Dean of Studies and the Office of the Dean of Academic Departments. It is sponsored by the Philosophy Department, with faculty members from a cross-section of campus providing perspectives and insight.

For example, Clemente, a philosophy/English interdepartmental major, was in touch with Psychology Professor Susie Benack regarding two cases involving psychological testing. Benack also helped coordinate a Minerva lunch to help with training, and Joshua Hart of the Psychology Department offered his assistance, as well.

“Ethics Bowl has been a major part of my life at Union since fall 2007,” Clemente said. “It encapsulates the perfect balance of academics and extracurriculars, providing a platform to discuss current social issues while still finding a connection with many close friends in the heat of competition.”

Koslin, a history major, put cases in historical context and also “deftly incorporated material from recent talks on campus by Darius Rejali,” said Wunderlich. The visit in October by the internationally recognized expert on torture and interrogation was organized by Political Science Professor Tom Lobe, who included some members of the Ethics Bowl team in a related book discussion group. 

“Everyone is always willing to help,” said Leavitt, “whether it’s a professor who gives up lunch to share some thoughts with the team, friends who’ll go over your case with you or even professors on sabbatical who generously correspond with the team.”