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Northwestern University

Weinberg Students Forge Ahead in Ethics Bowl

A four-member team, composed entirely of Weinberg students, qualifies for the national competition

It didn’t take long for Northwestern University’s first Ethics Bowl Team to cement its standing as a competitive force.

At the squad’s first regional competition Nov. 14 at Northern Illinois University, the Weinberg-educated quartet of Kimberly Chow ’17, Tazim Merchant ’19, Stanley Chan ’18 and Yaqoob Qaseem ’18 finished in the top four, punching their tickets to the 20th Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl National Competition in February in Reston, Va.

“[It was] both surprising and highly rewarding, especially since we suffered an early loss and suspected we had little chance of making the national competition,” said Qaseem, a sophomore neuroscience major and the inaugural team’s founding force.

Akin to debate competitions, Ethics Bowl teams argue and defend their moral assessment of complex ethical issues related to social, political, professional or personal matters. At the 22-team regional competition, for instance, the Northwestern squad tackled cases around ISIS and the future of Adolf Hitler’s Austrian birthplace.

Unlike debate, however, the two teams can largely agree on a given issue.

“To advance, you’re trying to find some flaw in the other team’s presentation of the case and add more perspective,” Qaseem said.

With each ethical case, teams are judged on their understanding of the facts, their ability to articulate key ethical principles, the effectiveness of their argument and their response to challenges put forth by the opposing team as well as the judges.

“I believe our success manifested the effectiveness of our preparation, the thoughtfulness of our cases and the cohesiveness of the team,” Qaseem said. “We didn’t go in very concerned about results because we had already gained a great deal of enjoyment and knowledge merely from our preparation of the cases.”

Team coach Mark Sheldon, an assistant dean at Weinberg College and a distinguished senior lecturer in philosophy, praised the team’s collaborative spirit.

“They all participated, always presented the view articulated as ‘we,’ and listened to and built off what each had to say as they developed their response,” said Sheldon, who also teaches in the Medical Ethics and Humanities Program at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.”

As the team now eyes its maiden voyage to the national championship event in February, Qaseem is excited to continue working with his teammates and establishing Northwestern’s presence in the Ethics Bowl.

“I can’t wait to get the next case packet, catch up on contemporary issues and have intellectual conversations with my teammates that incite growth,” he said. “As Northwestern’s first Ethics Bowl team, we’re really setting the precedent for preparation and commitment that we hope begins a long tradition.”

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