By Abigail Cloutier
Youngstown State University’s Ethics Bowl team is no stranger to fierce competition.
The team won its fourth consecutive regional competition earlier this month leading by 10 points, just seven points shy of a perfect score.
Mark Vopat and Alan Tomhave, professors in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at YSU, work together to coach the team on a regular basis.
Once the team begins preparation on the cases, the members meet several nights a week to discuss ethical stances and debate among themselves.
There are eight members on the team — five of whom will compete in the national competition — which allows formal debates between members.
According to Vopat, the team’s success is due to its unique practice model, but the real key to success is the guest faculty judges supporting the team’s strategy.
“They face judges who come from industry or academics,” Vopat said. “We try to make the cases relevant to their specialty. … One time we had an engineering case about manufacturing guns with 3D printers.”
Vopat said faculty members often stay after class to help the professors with debates.
“We really appreciate what they’ve done,” Vopat said.
Samantha Fritz, a senior philosophy and political science major, has been on the Ethics Bowl team since her freshman year and is one of two people responsible for deciding the main points of the team’s presentation during the tournament.
“My debate coach in high school suggested my high school debate partner and I should look into it because we were both coming in as philosophy majors and both coming from debate,” Fritz said.
She considers Ethics Bowl to be a hidden gem at YSU.
“Being able to be a part of a team that is still successful from YSU makes me very proud of my school,” Fritz said. “The school has very good resources for making sure that people do great things and come out of YSU having done those good things.”
Jacob Tomory, a senior philosophy and political science major, has been on the team for four years and enjoys the conversational nature of the tournaments.
“There is a 10-minute period at the end of each round where the team is questioned by judges. Those conversations are always incredibly interesting,” Tomory said. “I begin to stop paying attention to the fact that we are being scored and just start enjoying the conversation itself.”
Tomory said Ethics Bowl has sharpened his critical thinking, speaking and analysis skills, and he encourages students to participate regardless of their major.
“I can honestly say some of my best memories from college are from Ethics Bowl,” Tomory said. “It’s a great opportunity to learn but also just to have fun.”
This victory qualifies the team for its fifth national competition, which will take place Feb. 22 and 23 in Atlanta, Georgia.