A team of UCSC philosophy students won first place this past weekend at the California Regional Ethics Bowl Tournament held in Chico, qualifying them to compete in the National Ethics competition on March 4 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Ethics Bowl is a debate-style competition designed to develop students' analysis and judgment of contemporary hot-button ethical issues.

Students are required to analyze numerous case studies of ethical dilemmas drawn from a wide range of areas--including business ethics, environmental ethics, biomedical ethics, and personal ethics.

After researching a case, the students must come up with a morally defensible solution to a specific ethical dilemma and defend it before a panel of judges and a competing team.

"Both of our teams did an outstanding job," noted Kyle Robertson, a graduate student in philosophy and current coach-along with grad student Sandra Dreisbach who co-founded the UCSC teams in 2005.

"Our winning team gave a particularly excellent argument on the issue of whether medical professionals should be involved in torture-they received nearly perfect scores on this case, the highest I've ever seen at an Ethics Bowl competition," said Roberston.

"They also presented a compelling argument on the morality of the Kenyan government removing squatters from their national parks."

"Our other team presented great cases on the issue of whether obese airline passengers ought to be required to purchase an extra seat, and on the use of cognitive enhancers for test taking," Robertson added.

UCSC's Ethics Bowl team is jointly sponsored by Stevenson College and the Philosophy Department, who both provide funding, facilities and intellectual support.

Students prepare for the competitions by taking a two-unit course at Stevenson, taught this year by Robertson under the direction of Stevenson provost and philosophy professor Ellen Suckiel.

"The student team members and coaches all did a superb job in this year's Ethics Bowl competition," Suckiel noted. "We are proud and delighted that the team so effectively developed their ethical reasoning and debating skills, learned so much, and had such a good time by participating in the Ethics Bowl competition."