Ethics Bowl

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The Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl is an activity that combines the excitement of a competitive tournament with a valuable education experience for undergraduate students. Created in 1993 at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the Ethics Bowl has grown steadily over the years. Resembling a college bowl or quiz bowl competition, a moderator asks two teams questions that pose an ethical problem on topics ranging from professional ethics to social and political topics, and are then scored by a panel of judges on their responses both to the question and one another. Since 1997, the national Ethics Bowl Competition has taken place every year at the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.[1]

For the past few years ten regional bowls have taken place throughout the U.S. with over 100 teams competing. The top thirty-two teams are then invited to participate in the national competition.[2]

Along with the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl for undergraduates, a number of other ethics bowl competitions are held, including one sponsored by the Society for American Archeology. The Parr Center for Ethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the headquarters for the National High School Ethics Bowl. The National High School Ethics Bowl currently sponsors 36 regional competitions across the United States, excluding two unaffiliated competitions in Canada and England, and the national competition takes place every spring at UNC Chapel Hill. Regional winners participate in a virtual playoff against other high school winners to earn a spot at this national championship.

An international version of the same event has been established using technology to bring high school students together called an Olympiad.

Ethics Bowl Format[edit]

While the organization of Ethics Bowl tournaments can vary from region to region, single rounds generally follow a given format. Four to six weeks before the date of the competition, the competing teams, judges, and moderators are given a packet of case studies that present ethical issues to study.[3] The goal for the teams is not to do research on the cases, but to be able to formulate well structured, logical answers to questions asked about the cases.[citation needed]

In the round, both teams are each asked a question about different case studies. The team answers questions in the following way. First, the moderator poses a question to the team, and after two minutes to confer, the team must state their answer within ten minutes. The responding team then has one minute to present a response to the first team's answer for five minutes, and the first team then has a chance to respond to these comments for 5 minutes with 1 minute before to confer. Finally, the panel of judges has the chance to ask questions of the first team, either to clarify a point, or to elicit a team's viewpoint on an ethical aspect raised in their response. The judges then proceed to evaluate the first teams' response and the second team's comment based on the following criteria: clarity and intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant factors, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.[4] The round then repeats this format with the second team receiving a question about a different case.

In the national competition of the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, during the first evening, each team competes in two rounds against different teams. Two more rounds commence the next morning, and then the top eight teams continue on to the last rounds, all of which are single-elimination: quarter finals, semi finals, and lastly, the final round where the two remaining teams compete to determine the winner.[5]


The Ethics Bowl was developed in 1993 by Dr. Robert Ladenson of the Illinois Institute of Technology. An intramural Ethics Bowl was held at IIT for two years, and in 1995 a small local competition was held where teams from DePaul University, Loyola University, and Western Michigan University were invited to compete against the winning IIT from that year's competition. In 1996, the same four schools participated in the local competition, along with a team from the United States Air Force Academy.[6]

The first nationwide Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl was held in 1997 in Washington, D.C. in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. Since that time, the Ethics Bowl has taken place at the APPE annual meeting every year. The University of Montana won the National Championship in 1997. The United States Military Academy competed in and won the National Championship in 1998 and 1999. In 2006, due to the number of teams wishing to participate in the Ethics Bowl, regional competitions were held at locations throughout the U.S., and the top-scoring 32 teams were invited to participate in the national competition held in February, 2007.

In 2006, the United States Military Academy won the national championship.
In 2007, the University of Miami beat Westminster College to win the national championship.
In 2008 in San Antonio, Texas, Clemson University beat Westminster College in the final round to be national champion.
In 2009, Indiana University beat Clemson University for the national title.
In 2010, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) beat Weber State University to win the national championship.
In 2011, the University of Central Florida beat Montana State to claim the national championship.
In 2012, Whitworth University beat Clemson University in the final match for the national championship.
In 2013, in San Antonio, Texas, DePauw University beat Taylor University in the final match for the national championship.
In 2014, in Jacksonville, Florida, the University of Montana beat the University of Oklahoma in the final match for the national championship.
In 2015, in Costa Mesa, California, Taylor University beat Whitworth University in the final match for the national championship.
In 2016, Whitworth University beat Youngstown State University in the final match for the national championship.
In 2017, the United States Military Academy beat Youngstown State for the national championship.
In 2018, Santa Clara University beat the University of Oklahoma for the national championship.


  1. ^ Ladenson, Robert. The Educational Significance of Ethics Bowl" Teaching Ethics 1:1 (2001) 63.
  2. ^ Ethics Bowl Association for Practical and Professional Ethics.
  3. ^ Ethics Bowl Case Archive Center for the Study of Ethics, Illinois Institute of Technology
  4. ^ IEB Cases, Rules and Guidelines
  5. ^ Competitions Rules IEB Rules for National and Regional Championships
  6. ^ Ladenson, "The Educational Significance of the Ethics Bowl" p. 65.