Ethics Bowl



Seven St. John’s students journeyed north to Vermont last weekend where they took part in a debate on some of the crucial issues concerning our culture today.


The Ethics Bowl, hosted by Dartmouth University on Saturday, Nov 20, hosted other schools such as SUNY Buffalo and St. Joseph’s College. Students discussed matters such as pregnant athletes, bull fighting, and immigration, according to the attending students. This was the first time that students from St. John’s participated.


Students from St. John’s left campus on Friday, Nov 19 to make the five hour journey and returned the next evening.  


The team, consisting exclusively of juniors and seniors, made it through the morning competitions, which equals 6 cases in 3 rounds. During these debates, students may prepare for the events in advance but were not allowed to use their notes during their speech. A selected speaker is granted 10 minutes to present their argument. Teammates are allowed to pass notes to the speaker, but only he or she is allowed to present. 


Following this, there is a panel discussion where judges may question any or all of the students on the team.


Dr. Paul Gaffney, a professor in the philosophy department, was the team’s coach and guided them through the preparation for the event. He spoke of how he admired the members’ dedication, mentioning that the students prepared for their cases not only during designated meaning times but in any free time they had.  


“The students prepared the cases very thoroughly, and all seven members of the team participated fully and effectively in the three rounds of the debate,” Dr. Gaffney said.


“These students—all of whom as are very busy with other commitments—spent a lot of time preparing for the competition by studying the material, doing background research, and challenging one another in practice. This group deserves a lot of credit; they got SJU into the event and they performed extremely well. We will build on their success.”


Lisa Rodriguez, a senior, participated in the event. Rodriguez expressed her pride in being one of the first students in her school to participating in the event as well as some of the benefits she took from it.


“Being a part of St. John’s very first year participating in the Ethics Bowl Regional Competition was an amazing opportunity,” she said. 


“Dr. Gaffney did an outstanding job coaching our team and preparing us for the challenges of such and intellectual competition. It was definitely a great way to immerse myself into ethics and philosophy as a whole.”


Several of the students who participated are members of Phi Sigma Tau, the Philosophy Honors Society. While others have expressed either a desire to pursue a career in law or have already decided to attend law school. 


The event, sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, also serves as a qualifying round for the National Ethics Bowl which will be held this March in Ohio, according to Dartmouth’s Ethics Institute website.