That’s all that kept Union’s Ethics Bowl team from a first-place finish in the recent Northeast Regional Ethics Bowl at St. Joseph’s University in Patchogue, N.Y.
Five students competed against 26 teams representing 20 colleges and universities, including Dartmouth, Colgate and Villanova University.
The team’s impressive performance at the annual academic tournament Nov. 14 qualifies it for the National Ethics Bowl Championship Feb. 21 in Reston, Va. This marks the second time in three years a team from Union has qualified for the nationals.
Coached by Chalmers Clark, visiting instructor of philosophy, the team consists of Andrew Forte ‘18 (philosophy), Dima Yankova ‘16 (mechanical engineering), Marc Perlman ‘19 (biology and economics), Raashika Goyal ‘16 (biology and philosophy) and Sahil Khullar '19 (biology and philosophy).
Using critical thinking and communication skills, each team was asked to analyze some of the troubling and complex ethical issues facing society today and propose a solution.
One case asked whether it is ethical to compost corpses. Union’s team ultimately agreed that it was ethically permissible to do so to preserve the autonomy of those who would wish to have their remains returned to the soil. However, the team argued there must be strong procedural safeguards attached, including a rider of non-commodification of the composted remains.
Another case centered on whether the police are ethically entitled to a 10-day “cooling off” period before being questioned after involvement in a serious and potentially traumatic police event. Union’s team concluded that such “extra rights” for police were unethical based upon principles of due process and equal rights for all.
Teams were judged on their ability to understand the facts of the case, articulate the ethical principles involved and in pointing out weaknesses in the opposing team's case analysis.
After defeating Manhattan College in the quarterfinals and Sacred Heart in the semifinals, Union faced off against Tufts (winners over the United States Military Academy) for the championship.
The tense match went right down to the wire. One judge picked Union, a second picked Tufts and a third deemed the contest a draw. Point differential was used as the tie-breaker, and Tufts was declared the winner based on scoring one point more than Union.
“The competition was extremely grueling and lasted about 12 hours,” Clark said. “Even so, the team remained sharp, well focused, articulate and poised throughout. Part of the reason for such a strong showing is that they took preparation and study of the cases very seriously. They were, in fact, reviewing the cases in their hotel room - right up until midnight the evening before the event.”
The top four teams advanced to the national championship in Reston. In 2013, Union’s team finished eighth at the national finals in Jacksonville, Fla. Yankova and Goyal were also members of that team.
The team is sponsored by the Philosophy Department.
“It was quite remarkable to see how the students would take a case, approximate a point of view and work it through,” Clark said. “And, more often than not, revise (and sometimes reverse) their initial position. It was a pleasure and an honor to have been associated with these bright and highly promising young minds.”