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March 2018

Students and coaches pose with Ethics Bowl trophy in Chicago

Students and coaches pose with Ethics Bowl trophy in Chicago

Ethics Bowl Champs

On March 4, Santa Clara University’s Ethics Bowl team won SCU’s first-ever national Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl championship, marking the first time a California school has won the annual competition in its 22-year history.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Mar. 6, 2018—Would it be ethical to pay citizens to vote, or to make voting mandatory? What are the ethical implications of the nuclear rhetoric between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un? Should a radio station owner silence a host who is questioning the science behind vaccinations and climate change?

By providing thoughtful, strong, and persuasive answers to timely ethical questions like these, Santa Clara University’s four-member Ethics Bowl team prevailed over more than 200 other colleges and universities to win the twenty-second annual Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl championship.

This is the first national championship win for Santa Clara—and is also the first time a California team has ever won the nationals. Last year, Santa Clara’s team also qualified for nationals and placed fourth in the country.

“We are so proud of our students for their well-deserved victory in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in Chicago,” said Santa Clara University Provost Dennis Jacobs. “These national champions showcase the best qualities of a Santa Clara education: intellectual rigor, ethical decision-making, tenacity, eloquence, and teamwork.”

Thirty-six teams qualified for nationals, including teams from Clemson University; Seattle University; Stanford University; Villanova University; and Wake Forest University.

To reach nationals, SCU had to succeed in a regional competition in December. Two teams of Santa Clara students performed strongly in three rounds of competition, with one of the teams coming in third as ranked by judges’ points.

For the national championship, the Ethics Bowl competitors received 15 case studies with details about political, business, medical or other ethically challenging scenarios. They had two months in which to prepare ethical analyses and arguments for each case, and to prepare for questions. During two days of round-robin competition in Chicago, they were judged on their ability to 1) understand the facts of the case; 2) articulate the ethical principles involved; 3) present an argument for how the case should be resolved; and 4) respond effectively to challenges posed by the opposing team and judges.

“Throughout the competition, the judges consistently said Santa Clara’s team excelled in their critique of their opponent’s arguments, and in their ability to work seamlessly and effectively as a team,” said Assistant Professor of Philosophy Erick Ramirez, who coached the team along with head coach Erin Bradfield, a lecturer in philosophy, and Brian Green, adjunct professor of engineering and director of technology ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

The winning team comprised Miles Elliot, ’19, a philosophy major and computer science minor, from Lafayette, Calif.; Connor Holttum ’18, a philosophy major and religious studies minor from Mukilteo, Wash.; Jeffrey Kampfe ’19, a philosophy and economics major from Manhattan, Mont.; and Daisy Koch ’18, a philosophy major and political science and history minor from Granite Bay, Calif.

“It was the help of our coaches and teammates in preparing for the competition that led us to perform so well,” said Holttum. “We knew we could trust one another to all do our best, and work as one cohesive unit.”

The final Ethics Bowl question tackled by the SCU team Sunday night, where they faced off against University of Oklahoma, concerned a radio station owner whose host was questioning the validity of the science behind vaccinations and climate change. SCU’s students argued against censoring the host, arguing that airing the questions and allowing listeners to educate others had great value. The other team had to analyze a case about Amazon's proposed patent that would thwart online comparison shopping in its own brick-and-mortar stores.

“Their ability to think on the fly and as a team was just incredible,” said Bradfield. “You could also see how much fun they were having, which exemplifies the spirit of the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. It was a joy to watch,” she added.

Three additional students—philosophy and English major Schuyler Crilley ’19 of Los Angeles; sociology major John Daugherty ’19 of Seattle; and psychology and philosophy major Anthony Mejia ’20 of Modesto, Calif.—were on the Santa Clara Ethics Bowl team that came in third in the regional tournament, which positioned Santa Clara to make it to the finals. The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and the Department of Philosophy sponsor the teams.

Students who want to go to Ethics Bowl enroll in a philosophy course, and train at least eight hours a week. SCU teams have advanced to nationals twice in past years, coming in fourth place last year and ninth previously.

The competition is hosted each year by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in Californiaís Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; masterís degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering doctoral degrees. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. masterís universities, Californiaís oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5121


Recent Headlines, Ethics Center

Santa Clara University’s winning Ethics Bowl team 2018: Coach Erick Ramirez (far left); team member Miles Elliot '19 (fourth from left); Daisy Koch '18 (holding small trophy); Head Coach Erin Bradfield (behind Koch); Connor Holttum '18 (holding large trophy); and Jeff Kampfe '19 (third from right).