Ethics Bowl team wins regionals

Ethics Bowl coach Mark Vopat gives credit to the students on the team for success they’ve had so far. Photo by Emily McCarthy / The Jambar

By Emily McCarthy

The Ethics Bowl team at Youngstown State University has won the Central State Regional Ethics Bowl for the sixth year in a row. The team started seven years ago and has welcomed students of various majors.

Mark Vopat, professor of philosophy in the former department of philosophy and religious studies. now within humanities and social sciences, said his colleague, Alan Tomhave, started the team. Three years after it initially formed, Vopat officially joined as co-coach. Vopat said they have had students from different majors, but many students came from other ethics courses.

“We’ve been extremely lucky. When we first started — this was just before I got involved — it was basically three students who were in Dr. Tomhave’s class and he said, ‘These are good students. They’re doing well in ethics and I think they might be interested in this,’” Vopat said. “He sort of recruited three students, and they ended up doing extremely well. Two second-place national finishes and then a first-place finish two years ago. I think it says a lot about the work ethic of our students.”

Vopat said some students came in with minimal background in philosophy and ethics and have done surprisingly well and have put in a lot of effort. Students have come from backgrounds in business, engineering, philosophy, political science, English and psychology. The team has gone up against the United States Naval Academy, United States Military Academy West Point and DePaul University,  Clemson and Stanford universities. It has won first place in the regional competition for the six years it attended.

“I think it is in credit to the students and their work ethic,”  Vopat said. “They prepare, they do their homework and they show they can compete with anyone across the country.”

Vopat said he believes the Ethics Bowl is important because it is a discussion and fosters debate, civility, critical thinking, moral and reasoning skills. He said it also teaches students to think on their feet which has applicable scenarios to all students across campus.

“The Ethics Bowl was a part of the Association of Practical and Professional Ethics. Many of the people in our department have done work in ethics or applied ethics, and because of that we were also part of … forming that organization” Vopat said. “It was our exposure at the conference and with other schools and helping them as judges, and then we said, ‘Let’s do one here.’”

Shianna Gibbons, sophomore journalism major with a philosophy minor, said this was her first year in the Ethics Bowl on the “A Team.” She said her professors and teammates have been incredible, and she credits them with the team’s success. 

“I have known the professors and returning members for a few years, which encouraged me to join the team,” Gibbons said. “The Ethics Bowl team’s success is completely dependent on the faculty of YSU … compared with other Ethics Bowl teams, they do not have this unconditional support system that YSU has. That is where our continuous success came from.”

Vopat said the team is always looking for new members. To get involved next fall, students can contact Vopat or Tomhave in the philosophy department.