San Diego State Ethics Bowl team will head to nationals for first time in SDSU history

After a 2nd place finish at the California Regional Ethics Bowl, SDSU’s team of rookies looks to surprise at the national level

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Courtesy of Shelley Dedman

San Diego State Ethics Bowl team pictured at the California Regional Ethics Bowl at UC Santa Cruz. From left-to-right: Lena Albatro, Jacob Maldonado, Ian Paulino, Aidan Cumbo, Lauren Payne.

by Christian Houser, News Editor

The San Diego State Ethics Bowl team placed 2nd in the California Regional Ethics Bowl on Dec. 3 at UC Santa Cruz which secured their spot in the national competition happening in March 2023.

The team, composed of all rookies, will be the first team to participate in this competition in SDSU’s history. 

At the regional competition, the team passed through three initial rounds and a semi-finals to face off against Stanford in the finals where they were eventually handed their first loss. Before Dec. 3, not a single SDSU Ethics Bowl team had ever made it to the semi-final round. 

Throughout the semester, the team studies current events or contemporary issues deemed morally problematic in preparation for the competition. At the Ethics Bowl, the team gives an oral presentation on their stance on the issue selected and are also tasked with answering questions about the case from the other team and the judges. The team also has the opportunity to pose questions to the other team’s argument.

“One key difference between Ethics Bowl and standard debate is that we take the position that we genuinely believe to be the best position, so we’re not required to argue any position that’s thrown our way,” said Shelley Dedman, the Ethics Bowl team coach and lecturer in the philosophy department. 

Some of the cases studied this year revolved around the morality of corporations in Texas funding out of state abortions, minors having more autonomy in healthcare, personhood or legal rights for certain animals and moderation policies of Twitter.

The teams at the Ethics Bowl study the same cases throughout the year. In the California Regional, the teams will often hold similar stances, so it is important to question the teams reasoning, moral theories and examples each team uses, Dedman said. 

This can change at the national level. 

“So we’re looking forward to going to Nationals because it’ll have teams from all over the United States, from universities that perhaps do not have the same progressive ideals that a campus like SDSU has,” Dedman said. “So we’re really interested to go up against teams that probably are going to really oppose our perspectives.”

In previous years, each member of the team would be responsible for a few cases and would solely present the argument. This year, the team took a new approach to learning the cases which Dedman believes contributed to their newfound success.

“So this year, while I had each team member be responsible for writing a few cases, once those cases were written, they were further divided up amongst all team members so we could have a more diverse presentation style,” Dedman said. 

Dedman believes this method of a unified approach pushed SDSU’s team to the top levels of the competition.

Ian Paulino, a sophomore business major and member of the Ethics Bowl team, said he felt confident about their arguments going into the competition and believed their on-the-spot thinking led them to the finals. 

“All my other teammates were just really good at asking questions and presenting their parts and just thinking of stuff on-the-fly,” Paulino said. “I think that’s what our strong point was at the competition.”

Aidan Cumbo, a sophomore philosophy major and member of the Ethics Bowl team, said that as a team of rookies he believes they may have fallen short in the public speaking aspect of the competition but their ability to poke holes in other teams arguments propelled the team forward throughout the Ethics Bowl.

“So in our initial presentations I think we may have run into a little bit of trouble,” Cumbo said. “Once we were responding to the other team’s cases, I think we asked amazing questions that showed some flaws in their arguments.”

The team will be competing at the national level in early March with an entirely new set of cases. For some, a defeat in the finals may sting, but for this team of rookies the loss is already behind them.

“They have to go back to some rain in NorCal and I get to come back to sunny San Diego,” Paulino said. “Who’s the real winner?”