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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Santa Clara Team Places Fourth in the Ethics Bowl

students writing

students writing

The first California-based team to have made it to the semifinals of the national intercollegiate competition

Irina Raicu

Irina Raicu is the director of the Internet Ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.  Views are her own.

Over the last weekend in February, a team of Santa Clara University students competed in the national intercollegiate ethics bowl organized every year by the Association of Practical and Professional Ethics. It placed fourth out of 37 teams that had made it to that level of the competition—and it was the first California-based team to have made it to the semifinals in the 21-year history of the competition.

The Santa Clara students –Alex Arnold, Derek Sikkema, Leilan Nishi, Evan Meyer, and Jonathan Jaworski—were coached by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Erick Ramirez, Assistant Director of Campus Ethics Brian Green, and Business Ethics Program Coordinator Patrick Coutermarsh.

In a congratulatory email about the result, the dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, the executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, and the Chair of the Philosophy department set the context of the result:

The competition begins with 11 regional ethics bowls, attended by hundreds of college students from the United States and Canada.  Teams prepare to address cases raising topical issues in business and professional ethics, personal relationships, and social and political affairs.

Teams are evaluated on their understanding of the case and the ethical principles which ought to be considered, plus the team's ability to present an effective argument for how the case ought to be resolved and the team's responses to challenges raised by the opposing team and faculty judges.

One of the cases confronted by the SCU team involved the mining of social media users’ account information for advertising purposes. You can read the full case here. The students were asked, “Do social networks do anything wrong when they encourage mining of their users' data?”

How would you answer that?

(Oh, and by the way, if your answer is that you’d avoid that whole scenario by choosing not to use social media, you might want to read the recent article by professor Joseph Turow, titled “The Future of Shopping Is More Discrimination.” As Turow explains,

Policy experts, privacy advocates, corporate executives, and academics are arguing fiercely about the legality and ethics of data mining by online advertisers and the government. Meanwhile, retailers are doing the same thing and attracting comparatively little attention. As they continue, they are quietly sending consumers the message that offering up information about themselves is simply a prerequisite in a new era of shopping.

The ethics case studies practically write themselves—faster than any competition can use.)

Congratulations to the Santa Clara team and to all those who supported their efforts!


Photo by Erick Ramirez

Mar 8, 2017

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