Jepson School and the Ethics Bowl Academic Competition

With debates over ethical issues coming to the forefront in society’s realms of politics, medicine, business, and law, students at the Jepson School have chosen to take a different approach to dealing with these prominent issues. Ethics Bowls allow students from different colleges and universities to come together in a competitive discussion over real-life ethical dilemmas.

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, comprised of 15 liberal arts colleges and universities in Virginia, held the first Ethics Bowl at the University of Richmond in 2000. Professor Joanne B. Ciulla, a founding Jepson faculty member, helped to create the VFIC Ethics Bowl with the hope of uniting the schools in Virginia while challenging the students by exposing them to the issues as well as local leaders in the fields of business, law, medicine, and government. Professor Douglas Hicks was the statewide faculty coordinator for the first VFIC Ethics Bowl. In 2007, four University of Richmond students, including two Jepson students, won the VFIC Ethics Bowl focusing on cases in “Ethics and Medicine.” More

The Association for Practical and Professional Ethics hosts the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. Started in 1994, the competition has become so popular that there has been a recent need for regional competitions. In order to advance to the national competition, teams must compete in one of 10 regional competitions and be one of the top scoring teams.

Teams are given several potential cases in order to prepare for the competition. The cases can deal with ethics in a variety of settings including the classroom, personal relationships, professions, society or politics. During the competition, a moderator poses questions to which the teams of three to five students must respond. The students are given one minute to come up with an answer to the moral dilemma at hand. The judges then ask a series of questions. Following this, the opposing team gets one minute to respond to the first team’s answers. Teams then switch roles and compete on a second case. Scores are based on intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.

University of Richmond students first participated in the IEB in 2000 under the leadership of Terry L. Price. Since then, Richmond students have consistently participated in the competition under the coaching of Jepson faculty members Ciulla and Price. In the 2007-08 academic year, Price coached students chosen from his ethics class for the competition in November at the University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill. The Donchian Project has allowed for Richmond students to participate in the IEB for the past two years and will continue to fund their participation for the next several years.