LSA sophomore Tracey Fu was nervous. Her mind was racing — running through the argument she perfected, the cases she studied for months and the potential questions she would soon answer.
It was the Regional Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Championship last year, where Fu and her fellow members of the University’s IEB Team excelled and advanced to nationals. On Saturday, the IEB team is competing at the Regional IEB Championship in Chicago, where judges will pose questions about ethically contentious cases and students will present their arguments in team debate.
The University’s team will be pitted against students from colleges in Wisconsin, Illinois and other Michigan universities, and the highest scoring 32 teams nationally will then oppose each other in the IEB Championship on Feb. 28 in San Antonio, Texas.
The University‘s seven member team been preparing since September. The 15 cases released to IEB teams pose debate on societal predicaments, and have included free online college courses, rape jokes in popular culture and plagiarism in the day of creative commons licenses — a policy that allows for public distribution of copyrighted material.
“I can see a trend of more and more cases dealing with technology in some way, and though this makes some cases trickier or stranger, it also makes cases more applicable to our lives,” Fu said.
At competitions, the judges introduce the eight questions pertaining to the 15 cases, which LSA senior Hasenin Al-Khersan, co-captain of the team, said can be quite challenging.
“With some of the cases, the questions seem obvious and you can see what the questions are going to be like,” Al-Khersan said. “But other times they throw you a curveball.”
The Ethics Bowl was previously funded by the Center for Ethics in Public Life until the center closed in June 2011. Though the group’s trek to Chicago this weekend is funded by the University’s Program in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, if they proceed to nationals, the team has no definite source of funding for transportation, Al-Khersan said.
“It’s kind of challenging, the task of balancing being on the team with the administrative tasks that we kind of have to do on our own,” Al-Khersan said.
The team’s faculty adviser John Chamberlin, a professor of public policy and political science, is focused on logistics of the team rather than day-to-day operations, Al-Khersan said. The captain credited Chamberlin as playing a “pivotal role” in securing their current funding from PPE.
Al-Khersan described the group as student driven, and community organizations have noted their efforts.
Jeanine DeLay — president of A2Ethics.org, a non-profit organization that promotes ethics through education and social networking — said she was impressed with the team and expressed frustration with the funding struggles in a press release about the Ethics Bowl’s upcoming competition.
“Don’t you think it would be quite surprising, and embarrassing even, were administrators not able to fund and extend the program for a seven-person undergraduate ethics team from the school of ‘the leaders and the best’ to compete for a national championship?” DeLay said.