Captain Ulixes Hawili and his teammates face their competitors, confident in their preparations. But this is not a UT sports team. They don’t wear recognizable jerseys. No flyers heralded the match and no fans yelled through megaphone. Instead, this team is throwing arguments and dodging rebuttals, listening for fouls in carefully crafted plays.
The Ethics Bowl Speech and Debate Team competes by hammering away at ethical dilemmas surrounding suspended animation trials on humans and using sex robots. And they went undefeated against 12 schools, including The US Naval Academy, Auburn University, and Eckerd College, coming home champions of the Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl competition last weekend.
Before coming out as champions, they entered as unfunded underdogs.
“Unlike most others, (our team) received no funding, had only one coach, and did not have an Ethics Bowl class,” Hawili wrote in an email. “We were extremely handicapped, but our immovable determination pushed us to surmount these unfavorable odds.”
Although the Ethics Bowl is a courteous debate among collegiate peers, the atmosphere is nothing like an average classroom debate. Teams converse honestly about the topics while the judges observe the coherence of the philosophical arguments.
“The Ethics Bowl competition is a crucible of fierce competition,” Hawili said. “There are teams here that dedicate multiple hours to preparation for this event, even going so far as to have entire departments funneling grant money to train them to win championships. For the most part, participants tend to act cordially toward one another, though the tension is so palpable you can cut it with a knife.”
The team wasted no time at the start of the semester and began preparations for the competition during meeting times and on their own.
“We met once a week throughout the semester to go over the cases. Individually, we spent a lot of time researching like cases and further developing our philosophical arguments,” said Nicole D. Pacheco, a first semester team member.
Pacheco enjoyed the competition experience, but enjoys the company of her team and mentor most of all.
“Truly the best part about being on the team is my team members. We work as a well oiled machine. Also, Dr. Arvan is an incredible coach, professor and philosopher and getting insight on his philosophical views and advice on philosophical thinking has been invaluable, ” she said.
Dr. Marcus Arvan, an assistant professor of philosophy, has been the coach of the Ethics Team for six years and praises the students for their hard work.
“I am so proud of everyone on the team, for all of the hard work they put in, for how they worked together, and of course for their stellar performance,” he said. “They are all the embodiment of everything that is so great about UT.”
The team went undefeated in the Southeast Regional Ethics Bowl besting teams such as US Naval Academy, Auburn University, Seton Hall, Barry University, and Eckerd College. The team will advance to the national competition on Feb. 22 in Costa Mesa, California.
The Ethics Bowl Speech and Debate Team’s continued rigorous preparations prove that they do not lead the typical student lifestyle. Teammates, however, enjoy the stimulation and competition.
“(The best part is) inquiring, pressing, yearning and being challenged by fellow teammates. Looking at every detail to see if it is true,” Connor M. Cloherty said. “Pursuing answers to difficult cases. In a nutshell: to question everything. There is a sense of liberation in it.”
Cloherty has been a member of the Ethics Bowl team for a year and is confident in the team’s ability to continue their success. After celebrating their recent win, Ethics Bowl team members can still be found meeting for hours on Fridays, poring tirelessly over arguments, examining them from every angle and trying to imagine how their national competitors will try to discredit their positions. They hope to bring more than success home to share with the rest of campus.
“The desire of this team is to continue the trend of bringing UT to the top. To develop its national image,” Cloherty said. “When one thinks of UT, we want society to see an institution that is comparable to Ivy League schools.”
Mia Glatter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org