As home to the back-to-back defending regional champions and 2018 national champions, Santa Clara University and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics were asked to host this year’s APPE California Regional Ethics Bowl. The event took place on Saturday, December 5th and for the first time ever, was conducted completely over Zoom. Competing teams from California, Arizona, and Nevada analyzed and presented on various ethical dilemmas.
“The cases are always torn right from the headlines,” said Erin Bradfield, one of the team’s coaches. “This year the cases have a lot to do with race.” Teams are given a list of potential scenarios in advance but do not know the exact cases until the day of the tournament. One of the cases on Saturday asked students to ethically decide what, if any, would be a reasonable mask exemption during the pandemic. The team used negative utilitarianism (aiming to reduce total suffering) to argue that people with PTSD who would be further traumatized by wearing a mask would be the exception. Another case asked if political protests justified breaking laws to which the SCU’s team argued no using Social Contract Theory.
Overall, the tournament was a smashing success; thanks in large part to several volunteers and former Hackworth Fellow and Ethics Bowler, Anthony Meija ‘19, who organized and ran most of the day’s competition. SCU’s team #1 won two matches and lost one, placing in 12th, while SCU’s team #2 came in 21st place. Students were scored on their arguments, commentary on the other teams’ ethical reasoning, response to commentary from the other team, and impromptu answers to judges’ questions.
“The thing that’s unique about the Ethics Bowl,” said Erick Ramirez, SCU’s other team coach, “is that students are not scored on presentation, ‘ums,’ ‘buts,’ and ‘ands. It’s more about reasoning and connecting those reasons to positions.” At Santa Clara, the Ethics Team is not just an extracurricular, but a five unit course that meets and practices applied ethics every week.
This year’s members included Adán González ‘21, Clare MacMillin ‘23, Zachary Meade ‘21, Sabrina Moyes ‘22, Ashley Patoni ‘22, Lia Petronio ‘21, and Emma Samuel ‘22.