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SU Ethics Bowl Team Makes Run to National Championship Tournament

Ethics Bowl teamSALISBURY, MD---Salisbury University students get the opportunity to go toe-to-toe intellectually with the likes of Tufts, Yale and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point each year in the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics’ Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl.

The 2022 edition was another successful one for the ethics bowl team, as SU’s squad advanced to the national championship for the third time in 11 years, posting a record of 2-1-1, and finishing 12th in the standings of 36 teams, which qualified for championship competition – the best finish in SU history.

“I think this is the best team I’ve ever had,” said Dr. Grace Clement, the team’s mentor. “I think I got very lucky in the sense that I’m able to recruit really fantastic students. It’s interesting material and they’re inspired to work hard on it and work together, so it’s an incredible achievement.”

Members of the team are seniors Tharaphy "Kittie" Khin, from Burma; and Megan Rayfield, from Crisfield, MD; juniors Emily Marshall, from East New Market, MD; Haley Taylor, from Linthicum, MD; Andrew Wilson, from Salisbury; and Carly Nascimbeni, from Berlin, MD; and sophomores Wyatt Parks, from Freeland, MD, and Sara Sellers, from Damascus, MD. Clement and Dr. Timothy Stock coach the team.

The team’s story began in the fall when the group of eight students came together for the first time. Having not competed the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all eight were participating on the SU Ethics Bowl team for the first time.

As the students prepared for the regional competition, they received 15 cases related to current social, educational and legal issues to review and create a game plan for the regional competition in November. 

“There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing these cases,” said Nascimbeni. “Not only because you have to be prepared to present your own argument, but you have to be ready to respond to someone else’s approach. You have no idea going if in if you’ll be presenting or if you’ll be responding, so you have to be ready on all fronts.”

Team members spent hours preparing their cases and helping their teammates prepare for theirs by listening to arguments and attempting to prepare for how another team may respond.

The SU team had a unique opportunity to scrimmage a team from the area, at Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) in Westover, MD, which fields an ethics team comprised of inmates. The teams split their two scrimmages, but the value of the connection stretched beyond just the competition.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Rayfield, “but going in there and hearing their stories and their personal experiences and how that bled into some of the cases, it was really helpful, not only for the ethics bowl, but for my everyday life.”

One case examined during the scrimmages concerned the unbalance in equality among lives, a topic which included police brutality, police militarization and the prison system. The ECI inmates had a unique perspective, which helped prepare the SU team for the category and proved important when they argued the case at the regional tournament.

With the entire team being rookies, nerves ran high at the regional event as the SU students competed in one of the strongest regions in the nation. Facing one of their toughest tests against West Point in the first match and coming out with a victory quickly calmed their nerves.

“It kind of set the stakes for the rest of the regionals ethics bowl,” said Parks. “It got us over those jitters, but it also allowed us to realize that we put in the work and we were capable of winning.”

In its final round at regionals, the team faced Villanova University, which would go on to take first place at regionals.  Because that round was a loss in single elimination, it seemed that this year’s bid for nationals was in jeopardy, but SU’s overall performance in the competition allowed the team to qualify for the national competition via an open wild card slot.  That announcement came to the team in December, just two weeks before preparations for Nationals began.

The team made the most of its time and was ready when the national championship rolled around, earning two wins and just missing out on qualifying for the quarterfinals as one of the top eight teams.

“We’re really looking forward to next fall already because we can see that even though we’re from the Eastern Shore, we had the chance to go out there and place 12th in the country,” said Marshall. “I can’t wait to see what we do next year.”

The discussions about preparation for next year’s competition began during this year’s finals, as the team will return seven of the eight on the roster. All with a connection to the Philosophy Department, which sponsors the program, many of the team members knew each other before last fall, but have become closer through the process. 

“The fact that we can all be friends after the ethics bowl is a testament to the strength of our bonds because those bonds were tested a lot during preparation for the competition,” said Wilson. “We would often have to take a very negative or pessimistic approach to whatever our teammate was presenting in case the other team would do that to us in the real competition. We were consistently in arguments over cases, and the fact that we can still bond with one another afterward is a testament to how strong this team was in its composition.”

Clement has seen strides made by her team this year and the impact it can make on their lives.

“I feel like early on in my ethics bowl experience, I took my students out of Salisbury and they got scared to death of seeing those top schools,” Clement said. “Now, I feel like it’s a different kind of experience. ‘This is Villanova; they’re going to win the whole thing in the regionals,’ but we were just as good as they were in the regionals. These students have a future that they can see more clearly, I think, because of this experience.”

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