The University of Lynchburg Ethics Bowl team will wield its critical thinking and debate skills in two major competitions this month. The team’s journey begins with a statewide ethics competition Feb. 12 and 13 and culminates in the national championship Feb. 26.
Both competitions require rapid thinking, teamwork, and the formation of sound ethical arguments — skills at which this team excels.
“Ethics Bowl requires students to advance their own opinions on difficult concepts while respectfully listening to and incorporating the views of others,” said Dr. Laura Kicklighter, the team’s coach. “They work together to articulate the strongest argument they can on the issues that they are debating. Work ethic is also huge.”
In the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Ethics Bowl this weekend, the Lynchburg students will square off against teams from 14 other private colleges in the state as they debate “Ethics and U.S. Presidential Politics.”
Dr. Kicklighter said this topic can challenge the participants due to the divisive nature of the past election. It’s possible that the political leanings of participants and judges, who choose the winner of each debate, will come into play.
“We must remember to stick with what we believe is ethically right instead of trying to anticipate a judge’s opinion,” Dr. Kicklighter said.
Ethics bowl co-captain Lauren Fishbein looks forward to analyzing political topics without the pace of media frenzy. “It is beneficial that in ethics bowl we have the opportunity to take a step back from all the media and dive into the values a presidential candidate ought to have,” she said.
The national competition is run by the Association of Practical and Professional Ethics and operates under different set of rules. The students have 15 cases that describe situations — including topics like no-kill animal shelters, alcohol use by pregnant women, and trigger warnings in education — and they have been researching the ethical implications of each case.
In each round of the competition, the students will receive a question and then use their research along with their knowledge of ethics to come up with a solid argument about the most ethical choice in the given scenario.
Lynchburg earned a place in the national championship by winning first place in the regional tournament in November.
“We went against very large schools and proved that it is not the size of the university that matters, but the hard work from determined students.” Lauren said, describing the victory as a rewarding and satisfying experience, especially seeing the team’s growth.
“It was amazing! I was and am so proud of the team because they got to see all their hard work pay off. They really shone at that competition and it was wonderful to celebrate their success with them,” Dr. Kicklighter said about experiencing the team’s victory.
The team has proven a formidable competitor in recent years. “Being on the team for my entire undergraduate career, I have noticed that our willingness to learn and our love of education is what make us different,” Lauren said.
The team dynamic, characterized by a strong bond and solid communication, helps the team, she added. “We know each other’s strengths and weakness and are willing to help each other. It is an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating atmosphere.”
The team has been preparing for the competitions by meeting twice a week to run through the cases and discuss their research. Dr. Kicklighter looks forward to seeing her students compete on the national stage.
“University of Lynchburg is often underestimated at these events, being a smaller school,” Dr. Kicklighter said. “We compete against huge Division I schools. It’s great to see our students outshine those from larger schools and to see the other teams’ and coaches’ faces when they realize our students are a force to be reckoned with.”