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UM Ethics Team Shines in National Championship

March 11, 2009
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   Ethics Debate Team
UM Ethics Debate Team (l to r) Alaina Brandhurst,
Josh Kornfield, Haley Kornfield, Robert Levine, and
Rachael Goldberg

A team of University of Miami students, including a School of Business sophomore, advanced to the final four at the 15th annual National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl on March 5, ultimately finishing third among 32 teams at the competition.  Over 125 schools nationwide participated in 10 regional ethics bowls; finalists from each were invited to compete in the national event.

The team of five UM students met Indiana University in the semi-final round, and lost by just two points with two of the three judges giving both teams a tie score.

Indiana bested Clemson in the final round by a decisive margin in the competition, which took place in Cincinnati, Ohio.  

“We earned a trophy and the respect of the crowd; we are very proud of these five talented students and their dedication to our Ethics Debate programs,” said Anita Cava, associate professor of business law, director of Business Ethics Program, and co-director of UM Ethics Programs, who coached the team and accompanied them to the event.

The UM team consists of Robert Levine, a sophomore and triple major in accounting,  economics and finance; Alaina Brandhurst, a senior in industrial engineering; Rachael Goldberg, a sophomore in political science and psychology; Haley Kornfield, a sophomore in political science; and Joshua Kornfield, an undeclared freshman. The National Ethics Bowl is sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) and held in conjunction with its annual meeting.  Students research cases involving current public policy issues and apply ethical principles to suggest outcomes; this year’s problems included whether the military should use “killer robot” technology, privacy issues associated with Google Health, , immigration reform, and “shock marketing.”  

Each team receives a set of 15 ethical issues in advance of the competition, and questions posed to teams at the competition are taken from that set. In each round of competition, two teams face off, responding, in turn, to a case-specific question. The other team offers a critique to which the presenting team responds. This response is followed by questioning by a three-judge panel. The roles of the teams are reversed for the second half of the round, which deals with a different case. A panel of judges evaluates answers using criteria including intelligibility, focus on ethically relevant considerations, avoidance of ethical irrelevance, and deliberative thoughtfulness.

The University of Miami team qualified for the National competition by placing third last November in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ethics Bowl in Chapel Hill, N.C.

At the national competition, the UM team was assisted by Ryan Kairalla, a 2008 graduate of the School of Business and a member of the UM team that won the national title at the 2007 National Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. He was at the APPE Conference to present his Summa Honors Thesis, Competitive Ethical Argument and Moral Growth.

Cava is co-director of UM Ethics Programs with Ken Goodman, who is also director of the University’s Bioethics Program.

For more information about the Ethics Debate at the School of Business, or the other ethics initiatives at the University of Miami, visit www.miami.edu/ethics or contact Anita Cava at 305-284-5084.

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