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Ethics Bowl team members stand side by side smiling at the camera.
The UNC Ethics Bowl team, sponsored by the Parr Center for Ethics, solved cases about complex, ambiguous issues facing modern society in the intercollegiate championship. (Submitted photo)

Carolina’s coach said he couldn’t be prouder of the “intellectual studs” who won the intercollegiate championship.

Carolina’s record of winning national championships goes beyond the fields and courts of athletic competitions. On Feb. 25, the UNC-Chapel Hill Ethics Bowl team brought another trophy back to Chapel Hill after winning the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.

The Ethics Bowl is an academic competition in which teams of students present, defend and probe arguments about ethical dilemmas. The teams are given cases about complex, ambiguous issues facing modern society. Examples include affirmative action, the application of AI and lithium mining, among others. Students develop an ethical understanding of each issue and study the topic extensively to develop and support their arguments. The cases are designed to advance questions about which reasonable people can disagree.

“The purpose of Ethics Bowl is to get young students to engage in challenging conversations about morally salient issues,” said Andy Ackerman, coach of Carolina’s Ethics Bowl team and a doctoral student in statistics and operations research.

The Ethics Bowl includes 12 regional competitions, which send the top-scoring 36 teams to the national competition. Carolina’s team finished first in the mid-Atlantic region on their way to winning the national championship.

The UNC Ethics Bowl team, sponsored by the Parr Center for Ethics, put significant effort into preparation for their Ethics Bowl-winning campaign. While gearing up for nationals, they doubled their weekly practice time from three hours to six. But as diligent as the team is in preparing their argument for each case, they must also be ready to improvise while responding to questions from the judges or their opponents.

“What’s truly incredible about our team is that we have intellectual studs who are able to come up with nuanced answers on the fly,” Ackerman said. “I could not be more proud of this team,” he added.

UNC Ethics Bowl co-president Ann Goulian took pride in representing Carolina and bringing the title home.

“At a school as big as UNC, it can be hard to feel like a representative of the university,” Goulian said. “So it felt good to be able to contribute to our university community in such a meaningful way.”

Co-president Zach Buckler praised the team’s ability to work together and give each member an equal opportunity to contribute. He believes Ethics Bowl is making a positive contribution to society by promoting respectful discussion about critical issues.

“Ethics Bowl helps young people to think more deeply about important issues and have conversations about them that are not adversarial,” said Buckler. “I think that’s invaluable for civil discourse. It’s important to have a generation of people who can talk through emotionally charged and morally weighty issues in a serious way.”

By Ethan Quinn, University Communications

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