Ethics Bowl Team Wins Mid-Atlantic Championship

Group sweeps regional competition to advance to nationals in February 2020

UM Ethics Bowl team members celebrate winning the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. Bria Mazique (front) shows off the team’s trophy with (clockwise) Alexandra Kotter, John Jacob Mabus, Justice Strickland, Jacob Ratliff, Harrison Durland and Mimi Shufelt. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The saying “third time’s the charm” proved to be true for members of the University of Mississippi Ethics Bowl team, which recently won the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional competition.

The seven-student group was among 20 teams representing 15 colleges and universities that competed at the November event at the University of North Georgia at Gainesville. Members are:

  • Mimi Shufelt, a senior English major from Starkville
  • Harrison Durland, a senior public policy leadership and international studies major from Suwanee, Georgia
  • Bria Mazique, a senior marketing and communication strategy major from Brandon
  • Alexandra Kotter, a senior philosophy major from Poplarville
  • Justice Strickland, a senior psychology major from Tupelo
  • John Jacob Mabus, a junior philosophy major from Jackson
  • Jacob Ratliff, a sophomore political science major from of Hattiesburg

The Ole Miss team accumulated some of the highest overall scores in two previous regionals, yet failed to make the finals. By sweeping all categories in this year’s competition, they advance to the upcoming Association for Practical and Professional Ethics‘ Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, set for Feb. 22-23 in Atlanta.

“The competition focuses on students having a deep conversation about the ethical issues in real-life cases and developing concrete and ethical policy solutions to those problems,” said Deborah Mower, associate professor of philosophy and Bryant Chair of Ethics. “A panel of judges evaluated teams by a rubric that tracks a multitude of factors.”

Criteria included how clearly they presented their arguments, whether they addressed the full range of ethical issues and considerations, and how well they accommodated the needs or positions of those who hold the opposite viewpoint. Students also were critiqued on how well they presented objections to the opposing team, how well they responded to objections themselves and the quality of their answers in response to probing judges’ questions.

“I am still thinking about how we prepared before the recent tournament, coordinated at the tournament as a team and what could potentially be done better,” said Durland, who has been a member of the team since its inception four years ago. “To win the nationals would be a wonderful way to end my four-year run with the Ethics Bowl team.”

The nationals are held in conjunction with the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics conference. In preparation, students will spend evening practices and weekends to do the research on 17 cases. They also will hold practice rounds where the team members will debate faculty and graduate students specializing in ethics from the UM Department of Philosophy and Religion.

“We also invite faculty from across campus to serve as guest judges for these practice rounds and to give the students feedback on additional things to research for the cases and how to develop their arguments,” Mower said.

The team’s achievement demonstrated both the members’ incredible skills and their tenacity, said Steven Skultety, chair and associate professor of philosophy and religion.

“Each person on the team plays a different role in the actual debate process, so a spirit of cooperation is just as important as individual performance,” Skultety said. “Dr. Mower has done a remarkable job, and I hope more students will want to join.

“Students come out of this experience with a deep appreciation of ethics and new skills for engaging in civil discussion.”