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Whitworth team wins first place at National Ethics Bowl

March 5, 2012
Win marks third time in four years Whitworth has placed in nation's top five

For the first time in Whitworth University history, a team of Whitworth students took home the championship trophy at the National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and held March 1 in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the third time in four years Whitworth has placed in the top five in the national ethics bowl.

The Whitworth team competed against 32 other top-scoring teams from 10 regions across the nation in the 16th annual NIEB. Last fall, more than 125 public and private colleges and universities competed in 10 regional bowls; Whitworth took second place in the Northwest region's bowl competition.

At the national competition, Whitworth defeated teams from Eckerd College, Loyola University Chicago, and the University of California Santa Cruz in the preliminary rounds. Whitworth defeated Weber State University and Wake Forest University in elimination rounds before winning the final round against Clemson University, a past national champion. Other schools in attendance that finished below Whitworth in the standings included Dartmouth College, Georgetown University, Indiana University, Villanova University, and the University of Michigan.

In the IEB, a moderator poses questions to teams of three to five students. Questions may concern ethical problems on a wide range of topics. Each team receives a set of ethical issues in advance of the competition, and questions posed to teams at the competition are taken from that set. A panel of judges evaluates answers; rating criteria are intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.

Prior to the March 1 competition, Whitworth's interdisciplinary ethical-debate team analyzed 15 ethically complex cases pertaining to topics such as multiuser online role-playing game players who engage in virtual romantic and sexual relationships and then want to continue them in the real world; a Mississippi governor who required a jailed sister to donate a kidney to her jailed sister as a condition of prison release; government using graphic pictures as warning labels on cigarette packing; assessing the moral obligations of France and Italy to Tunisian refugees seeking asylum; states selling state-run lottery operations to private corporations; proposed limitations on whistleblowers in the meat industry; and weighing the benefits of destroying levees to save small towns at the expense of farmland.

Members of the Whitworth team included political science major Jesse Javana and English and philosophy double-major Bridger Landle, both '12, philosophy major Krister Johnson and political science major Max Nelsen, both '13, and philosophy and Spanish double-major Sarah Sauter '15. The team was coached by Mike Ingram, professor of communication studies and associate provost for faculty development and scholarship and by Keith Wyma, associate professor of philosophy.

"Keith Wyma and I are extremely proud of this team," Ingram says. "They worked diligently to research 15 cases on complex ethical issues. Their presentational skills were unmatched at the bowl, and they are exceptionally clear thinkers and communicators. Their broad liberal arts education prepared them well for this academic competition."

Organized by the Illinois Institute of Technology's Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, the IEB develops students' intellectual abilities and capacities, deepens their ethical understanding, and reinforces their sense of ethical commitment. The IEB has received a special commendation for excellence and innovation from the American Philosophical Association and was the winner of the American Philosophical Association/Philosophy Documentation Center's 2006 Prize for Excellence and Innovation in Philosophy Programs. The format, rules, and procedures of the IEB all have been developed to model widely acknowledged best methods of reasoning in practical and professional ethics.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Mike Ingram, professor of communication studies and associate provost for faculty development and scholarship, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4428 or

Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or