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On Campus: Harper Ethics Team Scores First-Ever Bid to Nationals

The College's four-person Ethics Bowl team beat out a host of four-year colleges and universities to earn a spot at nationals, set for San Antonio, Texas in February.

A group of Harper College students this winter will tackle a slate of ethical issues – from plagiarism and paid maternity leave to the legalization of drugs in Guatemala – at an event that combines the art of philosophy with the intensity of a national collegiate competition.

The four-member Ethics Bowl team landed the opportunity to compete by grabbing its first-ever national championship qualifying bid at a December 1 regional contest. Harper’s squad beat out competitors from nearly a dozen Midwestern four-year colleges and universities, including the University of Michigan and the Illinois Institute of Technology, to earn the prestigious slot.

Team members Eli Longbottom of South Barrington, Gilbert Morquecho of Buffalo Grove and Matthew Sandel and Caitlin Weres of Arlington Heights will travel to the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Championship in San Antonio, Texas on February 28 for the final leg of competition.

“This is the best Harper’s team has ever done, and, to my knowledge, it’s the first time a two-year college has qualified for the national contest,” said Assistant Professor John Garcia, who hosts the team with Assistant Professor Brett Fulkerson-Smith and has been involved with the national tournament since its inception. “We are extremely proud of the students’ successes.”

Team members prepare for competitions by reviewing a packet of case studies on a variety of in-the-news topics that beg philosophical and ethical debate; they don’t know until they reach the contest what case they’ll have to address. Unlike a debate tournament, team members don’t engage in a structured argument with their competitor, but instead take a stand on the issue, spell out their reasoning and then face a panel of judges who probe them for further justification.

Ten regional ethics bowls will take place throughout the United States through December, and the top-scoring 32 teams – Harper already among them – will qualify for nationals. In the seven years that the contest has required colleges to qualify into the tournament, colleges including Indiana University, Clemson and the University of Miami have emerged as champions.

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