UM Ethics Bowl fosters discussion

UM Ethics Society members faced controversial topics including coal mining, the displacement of indigenous tribes and spanking during the 6th annual UM Ethics Bowl held in the School of Business Administration Saturday, Oct. 9th.

Conceived and sponsored by donor Karl Schulze, with support from the Arsht Initiatives of UM Ethics Programs, the event is described as more of a discussion than a confrontational debate.

“It’s like debate, but not aggressive or angry,” junior Josh Kornfield said. 

Kornfield, along with his Co-Chair of Ethics Bowl Robert Levine, helped train the four teams that participated Saturday.

“People have a misconception about ethics, that there’s one specific ethical value that you’re supposed to believe in,” Kornfield said.

The purpose of the UM Ethics Bowl is for a team to come to an ethical conclusion about a case, and present that point to a panel of judges, comprised of local businesspeople. A team could concur with the opposing team, but must demonstrate any slight differences in argument and the misuse of ethical principles from their opponents.

Members of the Ethics Society range from freshmen to seniors and do not have to be majoring in business to participate.

Saturday’s event consisted of three preliminary rounds and a final round, all of which began at 8:30 a.m. and lasted until 3:30 p.m. Each team was comprised of about five students, who went against one team at a time.

At the beginning of each round, the timekeeper read an ethical case and question, and a team would have a one-minute conferral period, followed by the presentation of their ethical conclusion. The opposing team then conferred and gave their commentary. The first team responded to that commentary and then answered judges’ questions.

Each member of the first place team, comprised of junior Enid Magariand freshmen Phillip Fitzpatrick and Robert Wilcox, received a $100 UM bookstore credit. Each member of the second place team received a $50 credit.

“The key was that our team didn’t rely on only our research and was able to dynamically respond to our opponent’s arguments and the judges’ very difficult questions,” Magari said.

In addition to weekly meetings and trainings with the entire Ethics Society, teams met individually prior to the bowl to divide the 15 cases and prepare outlines. Each outline is a 10-minute memorized speech.

Not only does the UM Ethics Bowl teach teams logic and presentation skills, it serves as a practice for members who will attend regionals held in Virginia in November. Teams for regionals have not yet been selected.

The UM Ethics Team has had many successes, including winning the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl in Cincinnati in 2007 and placing in the top four since then. The team also placed second in the National Bioethics Bowl in 2009 and 2010.

“It really has put UM front and center in a very different stage. Schools across the country now know that the University of Miami has a very strong ethics society and a very strong emphasis on discussing ethics in undergraduate level across the whole campus,” said Anita Cava, co-director of the UM Ethics Programs.

The UM Ethics Team has faced opponent schoolsincluding UCLA, Williams M. Hurstand U.S. Military Academy.

“This is excellent company for any academic institution to be in. I’m very proud of our students,” Cava added.

Vanessa Ramos may be contacted at