Student team records Ethics Bowl victory

by J.B. Potter '11

The twelfth annual Ethics Bowl took place at Virginia Wesleyan College on 13 and 14 February 2011. This two-day debate tournament is held once a year to encourage thoughtful reflection about moral and ethical issues. Organized by the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC), the Ethics Bowl involves student teams from all VFIC member schools.

The Hampden-Sydney team-Chris Deen '13, J.B. Potter '11, Baker Allen '14, and Osric Forrest '12-practiced rigorously for several weeks before the tournament. Dr. James Janowski, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Dr. Marc Hight, Elliott Associate Professor of Philosophy, serve as the team's faculty advisors and co-coordinators. Their efforts and expertise ensured that the team was polished and well prepared by the time of the tournament.

ethics bowl
After the Wachovia Ethics Bowel competition, from left: coach Mark Hight, judge Roger Mudd, Chris Deen ’13, J.B. Potter ’11, Baker Allen ’14, Osric Forrest ’12, coach James Janowski, and judge Martha-Ann Alito.
This year's tournament, sponsored by the Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation and other Virginia businesses, had the theme "Ethics & Privacy." Presented with case studies that related to this topic, opposing teams debated some of the relevant ethical dilemmas. Each team presented its positions and analysis to panels of judges-business, professional, and educational leaders from across the Commonwealth.

Garnering praise from judges and spectators alike, the Hampden-Sydney team represented the College well. After a tough first-round bout against Bridgewater College, the Hampden-Sydney team regrouped to overcome the initial setback. In a sweep of the remaining competitors in its division, the team won its next three rounds, defeating Mary Baldwin College, Hollins University, and Randolph College. With a 3-1 record, the team earned far more speaker points (presentation points awarded by the judges) than any other team. These points propelled the H-SC team to the championship round and proved to be the deciding factor, as there was a three-way tie for first place (three teams with a record of 3-1) in Hampden-Sydney's division.

Hampden-Sydney advanced to the final round, squaring off against our "sister" school, Sweet Briar College. According to the panel of judges, which included retired journalist Roger Mudd and Martha-Ann Alito, wife to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (who was also in attendance), the championship round was extremely close. The H-SC team was edged out to finish second out of the sixteen teams in the tournament. This achievement equals Hampden-Sydney's best previous performances, runner-up in the 2004 and 2010 Ethics Bowls.

In the past four years, the H-SC Ethics Bowl team has compiled an enviable record. In both 2008 and 2009, the team went 3-1 and missed the championship round in a tie-breaker. In 2010 the team went 4-0 but lost in the final round. This year's performance brings the team's four-year record to 13-3 (excluding the final rounds), making Hampden-Sydney one of the most successful schools in the recent history of the Ethics Bowl.