Westminster Students Compete in National Ethics Bowl

Ethics Bowl team for web

Mar 1, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY – Ten Westminster students will compete against some of the best schools in the nation at the 22nd Intercollegiate Ethics BowlSM Competition. The Westminster Ethics Bowl Team won the Wasatch Regional Ethics Bowl in November and will now head to Chicago March 3 - 4, 2018, for the national competition.


The college has been to nationals eight out of the 11 years it’s participated in ethics bowls.


It will be senior Mariah McCoy’s second trip to nationals. Her first national ethics bowl was her first year at Westminster. She’s says it differs greatly from what most are familiar with – the high school debate.


“It’s not that you’re asked to take a point and argue it to the best of your ability, it’s to honestly ask yourself what is the ethical or moral obligation and how do you solve these real-world issues,” said Mariah McCoy, a Westminster senior majoring in global environmental justice in the Honors College. “All of our cases are contemporary, relevant and very much something even professional scholars are not sure how to address ethically. We’re being asked very big questions. Learning how to answer them or at least talk about them as a team is super helpful in life because that is life.”


In an ethics bowl competition, teams discuss then defend their moral assessment of some of the most troubling and complex ethical issues facing society today. Teams are given several cases to tackle, and topics range from what if a solar flare hits Earth, to heavy questions around social media, gender testing in athletics and nuclear war.  

At nationals, teams of five will be judged on a point-based system. Westminster’s entire 10-person team and two faculty coaches, Michael Popich and Kara Barnette, will attend. Team members will switch out depending on the case topic they are arguing.

 “Being able to collaborate with other people, even when we have different views on a topic, and being able to work together to figure that out has helped me a lot in other classes.” said Jessica Taghvaiee, Westminster junior political science major in the Honors College


Whether teams are examining the obligation of pharmaceutical companies to address opioid addiction or how to incentivize voting – Westminster Ethics Bowl coach and associate professor of philosophy Kara Barnette says the students are learning skills we all could use – especially around the dinner table in a political season.

“This team does a great job of moving past arguing positions to discussing issues in very important ways,” said Barnette. “It’s about pushing teams to consider more angles to an issue. It completely changes the way you discuss your own ethical position rather than arguing or being in an echo chamber.”

Media Contacts

Krista DeAngelis and Arikka Von

About Westminster

Westminster is a private, independent, and comprehensive college in Salt Lake City, Utah. Students experience the liberal arts blended with professional programs in an atmosphere dedicated to civic engagement. With the goal of enabling its graduates to live vibrant, just, and successful lives, Westminster provides transformational learning experiences for both undergraduate and graduate students in a truly student-centered environment. Faculty focus on teaching, learning, and developing distinctive, innovative programs, while students thrive on Westminster’s urban Sugar House campus within minutes of the Rocky Mountains.

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