Debating to the Top

by Kate Sullivan ’15

The time is on the clock, the topic posed, and the teams are in deep discussion. The question on the floor: Are laws permitting child euthanasia, like the one recently passed in Belgium, morally permissible? Each team must demonstrate they understand the facts of the case, articulate the ethical dilemmas involved, present an effective argument on how the case should be resolved, and respond to arguments posed against them. To many, this task would seem overwhelming, but not to seven skilled student debaters from Azusa Pacific University.

On Sat., Dec. 6, 2014, APU’s Ethics Bowl Team won the 18th Annual Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, California Regional Competition, in Santa Barbara, and secured a position at the National Ethics Bowl, in Costa Mesa, on Feb. 22, 2015.

Started in 1996, the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl allows college students to engage in complex moral issues while arguing and defending their team’s proposed outcome. This series of academic debates focuses on cases covering a wide range of topics on issues in business, bioethics, consumer behavior, health care, public policy, parental rights, animal welfare, environmental stewardship, and social justice. Every year college students compete in 10 regional competitions, from which 32 teams advance to the national competition.

Through a semester long class, taught by Ethics Bowl Coach Rico Vitz, Ph. D., associate professor of philosophy, APU students researched and prepared for the event. The course involved extensive reading on a variety of ethically complex issues. Students analyzed issues from multiple angles, wrestled with tough topics, and learned how to defend their values and beliefs.

This year, APU won the California Regional Championship, remaining undefeated the entire weekend. The APU team included Alain Leon ’17, Justin Manassee ’15, Kristi Shevkun ’15, Marissa Espinoza ’16, Payson Marsh ’15, T.J. San Diego ’16, and Josh Mastan ’15. These students went up against a number of other universities, including San Diego State University, San Jose State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly Pomona, and Santa Clara University. Throughout the weekend, they articulated arguments around synthetic forms of nutrients, bringing cholera to Haiti, the moral permissibility of certain charities, and the use of pre-Photoshopped pictures without consent.

APU will now prepare to join the nation’s greatest teams at the 19th annual National Ethics Bowl. “For the second time in the nearly 20-year history of the Ethics Bowl, APU’s team will represent our university and the state at the national level, ” said Vitz. “This achievement attests to the caliber of our student debaters who worked diligently to prepare for this competition.”