February 18, 2010
by J. B. Potter '11
Is it ethical for colleges at the last minute to change their financial aid packages to incoming students? May students cheat if the rewards for everyone at the college are large enough? These and other ethical issues in higher education were the focus of a two-day debate tournament held at the University of Richmond on February 14-15. Organized by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC), an organization comprised of fifteen private colleges and universities in Virginia including Hampden-Sydney, the tournament is held once a year to encourage thoughtful reflection about moral and ethical issues. The event is called the Ethics Bowl.
The Ethics Bowl involves student teams from every VFIC member. The Hampden-Sydney team, (left to right) Kyle Martin ’10, J.B. Potter ’11, and Osric Forrest ’12, practiced rigorously for several weeks before the tournament. Dr. Marc Hight (far right), Elliott Associate Professor of Philosophy, served as the team’s faculty advisor/coordinator. His efforts and expertise ensured that the team was polished and well prepared by the time of the tournament.
The week before the event, the Union Philanthropic Literary Society (UPLS) generously helped the team prepare by fielding mock teams of its own to simulate tournament conditions. Members included Gregory Dear ’10, Josh Shelton ’13, Alex Cartwright ’13, Tyler Barstow ’10, Andrew Mauney ’11, and Bryan Vanetten ’10. Professor Hight recruited faculty and staff to serve as mock judges. Dr. Glen Bowman, Denise Faircloth, Professor James Frusetta, Paula Hight, Professor Michael Wolyniak, Dr. Richard McClintock, and Professor Claire Deal gave the team feedback and helped them hone their debate skills.
This year’s tournament, sponsored by the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation and several other prominent Virginia businesses, was organized around the theme of “Ethics & Education.” Presented with case studies that related to this topic, opposing teams debated some of the relevant ethical dilemmas involved. Each team presented its positions and analysis to panels of judges. These judges were business, professional, and educational leaders from throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Garnering praise from judges and spectators alike, the Hampden-Sydney team represented the College extremely well. In a sweep of the competitors in its division, the team won all of its debate rounds against excellent competition, defeating Bridgewater College, Randolph College, Marymount University, and Shenandoah University. In addition to boasting a perfect 4-0 record, the team had far more speaker points (presentation points awarded by the panels that judged the teams) than any other team.
Hampden-Sydney advanced to the final round, squaring off against our perennial archrival, Randolph-Macon College. In an extremely close championship round, the H-SC team was barely edged out to finish second out of the fifteen tournament teams. This achievement equals Hampden-Sydney’s best previous performance, runner-up in the 2004 Ethics Bowl.