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UNC Ethics Bowl team prepares for weekend competition

Physician-assisted suicide, abortion, child autonomy and employee rights are just some of the topics discussed at a typical UNC Ethics Bowl meeting.

Led by professor Jan Boxill, director of the Parr Center for Ethics, the UNC Ethics Bowl team has been studiously preparing for the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Regional Ethics Bowl competition this weekend.

The competition will include 16 different universities and will be held at Clemson University Saturday.

Boxill teaches an ethics class, and some students in the class participate on the team.

At some ethics bowl meetings, a team will present a topic, the opposing team will respond and a discussion will ensue.

Boxill said she hopes the team serves as an environment for students to discuss and tackle difficult moral issues.

“Our goal is to promote civil discourse on real-life issues. One of them last year was, ‘Should we allow undocumented immigrants to be in the public schools?’ These are things that are really discussed,” she said.

Boxill emphasized the diversity of the team and the opportunity it presents for the students involved.

“What we found was that it’s a unique experience for students to apply material from all of their courses — in particular the ethics classes and philosophy classes, but others as well. So whether it’s sociology or anthropology, whatever, it gives them an opportunity to work through real-life scenarios.”

Colleen Ciszek, a junior and a member of the ethics bowl team, discussed the comfortable atmosphere of the team.

“It makes you remove any potential hostility versus you know, say, going to the Young Democrats and College Republicans debate on a particular issue,” she said.

“They try to remain civil, but it escalates, whereas here, it’s completely absent from it. It’s a discussion, it’s a conversation, we don’t want to one-up you.”

Jocelyn Wilson, a junior and a member of the ethics bowl team, highlighted the practical benefits that she got from her involvement in the team.

“You get a lot of, obviously, public speaking, presentation skills, I think something very unique that this class gives you too, it teaches you to use those kinds of skills immediately. You have to be able to react to people, you have to be constantly listening,” Wilson said.

“With this every moment it’s listening to your other team members to make sure you incorporate what they’re saying into your argument as well as listening to the other teams responding correctly. Thinking and taking your argument two steps further for the judges so it’s the immediateness that I think is unique.”

Ciszek said she has learned many skills from being on the team.

“There are so many difficult moral dilemmas that people are faced with all the time and they are very charged things, like abortion or physician-assisted suicide even to the really mundane to disclosing someone’s salary,” Ciszek said.

“With ethics bowl, it really helps you clearly evaluate different elements of different arguments and you can sort it out and come to a conclusion that you are comfortable with. Even if you are uncomfortable with it, you can see how you got there.”

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