OC's ethics team places fifth in the nation

Dr. Jeff Simmons
Dr. Jeff Simmons

By Tori Jones, Courtesy of The Talon

Oklahoma Christian University’s ethics team took fifth place out of 32 teams from across the nation in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Competition Feb. 27 in Jacksonville, Fla.

The ethics team debated on topics such as in-vitro fertilization, outsourcing surrogate mothers, the morality of FBI involvement in potential cases of terrorist coercion, and the use of off-label prescriptions with anti-psychotic drugs.

The top eight teams from the round-robin matches advanced to the quarterfinals, where it is win or go home.

The Eagles, who defeated the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University on their way to winning the state championship in October, squared off against the University of Montana in their quarterfinal match. Montana, the eventual national champions, won by a two-point margin.

Sophomore Gabriel Gasiorowski is a first-time ethics team member. He said, going into the competition, the team put in the hours poring over cases.

“We discuss questions based off a series of cases that we receive before the case,” Gasiorowski said. “We don’t know the questions or which case until we get to each match, and so we must be well prepared for the dimensions of each case.”

According to Jeff Simmons, an associate professor of business and the team’s faculty sponsor, the team practiced every Tuesday and Thursday for about two hours.

“Unfortunately, the only time we could find to meet on Thursday was at 6:00 a.m.,” Simmons said. “At first, we discuss the moral issues involved with each case and the possible viewpoints one could take towards the ethical dilemma presented in the case. In subsequent meetings, we practice by actually presenting and debating our arguments amongst ourselves.”

Additionally, the team works on other debate skills – such as being able to present your argument in one minute, 30-second and 10-second intervals.

Personal bias made going on the offensive challenging, according to junior Jasper Bawcom.

“One of the things the judges look at in the competition is your ability to poke holes in the other team’s arguments, and this was sometimes difficult to do – especially in situations where you agreed with the other team,” Bawcom said.

Gasiorowski admitted that the biases made even establishing the team’s position on a case more of a process.

“We must be cohesive as a team of three people all with different ideas,” Gasiorowski said. “There is a lot of real debate and discussion on these cases in each of our practices when we are searching for our team’s position.”

Simmons said that the team had some tough competitors, including the University of Montana, the University of Nebraska and the University of Oklahoma.

“We are developing quite the rivalry with OU,” Simmons said. “In the past two years, we have beat their team four times and lost three.”

The most challenging opponents, in Gasiorowski’s opinion, were St. Petersburg College and the University of Nebraska.

“Both matches were extremely close point-wise,” Gasiorowski said. “While we won against St. Petersburg and unfortunately lost against Nebraska, both were very well fought on both sides.”

According to Simmons, there are usually 15 cases that a team has to prepare for the national championship. Most other teams have five members that assign and divide the cases amongst the team members so that they have case experts.

“Instead, I have every member involved in every case by making each one responsible for addressing the dilemma through the perspective of a specific moral philosophy, such as deontology, utilitarianism or Aristotelian ethics,” Simmons said. “This way we are assured of not having some of our stronger presenters idle during the match simply because their case wasn’t discussed.”

Bawcom didn’t know what to expect going into the competition, but he is content with the squad’s performance.

“I think we did well, especially considering that it was the first time on the team for each of us,” Bawcom said. “Hopefully next year we can do even better.”

According to Simmons, the next step for the ethics team is getting some much-needed rest. After that, he is pushing to add some strong new members who have an interest in moral philosophy and/or debate.

“I already have a few students on the radar but am always willing to consider more,” Simmons said. “We'll take the summer off but hit the road running next fall, holding tryouts at the start of the semester.”