On Friday Nov. 3, teachers and students gathered in one of the Nursing Building’s lecture halls to kick off Ethics Awareness week with a preamble event titled “The Ethics Bowl.” Organized largely by Dr. Walter Riker, UWG Professor of Philosophy, the Ethics Bowl presented a debate-like structure, with a very broad discussion prompt hinged on each team selecting an unanswered question, or issue, facing the world today.
“Ethics is about what is ultimately worth doing,” said Riker. “It has to do with right and wrong conduct, what it means to be a good person, and what sort of society we should have.
“I study and teach ethics and promote ethical thinking whenever I can,” continued Riker. “I thought a Faculty Ethics Bowl event would be a fun way to help promote civil discourse, active listening, and collaborative problem-solving in the UWG community.”
Indeed, the Ethics Bowl certainly stirred conversation and thought with Team 1, featuring Geography Professor Dr. Hannes Gerhardt, History Professor Dr. Elaine MacKinnon and Sociology Professor Neema Noori, and Team 2 featuring Economics Professor Dr. David Boldt, German Professor Dr. Felix Tweraser and Nursing Professor Dr. Katie Morales. The judges panel also consisted of faculty and staff being Philosophy Professor Dr. Robert Lane, Political Science Professor Dr. Salvador Peralta and Librarian Dr. Beth Sheppard.
With the very vague prompt of finding a “big question” to world problems, Team 1 posed the inquiry of “Why can’t we all just get along?” while Team 2 chose to pinpoint “poverty” as the greatest issue.
“The topic was broad on purpose,” said Riker. “UWG faculty do a lot of jobs on campus, and one of them is to think about and write about big questions. We invited faculty from nine different fields on purpose … I thought it would be interesting to have a lot of different people work on some big questions together.”
With the faculty and topics set, the day of the Ethics Bowl, a large handful of students, faculty and staff filled the Lecture Hall in the Nursing Building. Many students attended to support their professors and perhaps others stayed for the raffle, but in the end, the panel discussion seemed to hold audience attention.
When each panel had finished their back and forth, and after a Q&A session, the judges and the audience voted to see who “won” in terms of which argument and issue seemed more sound. Interestingly, the judges voted 2-1 in favor of Team 1, whereas the audience voted for Team 2 by a landslide of raised hands.
“I was pleased with how things turned out,” said Riker. “This is the first time we’ve tried this, so I did not know what to expect.”
The event certainly stirred conversation and readied UWG for Ethics Awareness Week the following week which featured panels and presentations each day including a “Chancellor’s Panel” and an ethics-trivia on the Grassy Triangle which awarded prizes to students.
Every year UWG, along with 25 other institutions in the University System of Georgia, host Ethics Awareness Week to encourage students to think critically and engage in conversations respectfully.
Riker is hopeful to hold another Ethics Bowl in the future and to get more students involved, not just with the event and with ethical conversation in general.