2024 Ontario Ethics Bowl: A Forum for Enriching and Empowering Dialogue | College of Arts

2024 Ontario Ethics Bowl: A Forum for Enriching and Empowering Dialogue

Posted on Friday, February 16th, 2024

Ontario Ethics Bowl 2024 attendees sitting in the auditorium in the Arts Research Centre at the U of G
Ontario Ethics Bowl 2024 attendees sitting in the auditorium in the Arts Research Centre at the U of G

On February 10, 2024, the University of Guelph’s (U of G’s) College of Arts and Department of Philosophy hosted one of six regional qualifiers in Ontario for the 2024 Ontario Ethics Bowl, with a goal of sending two teams to the Ontario Championship in hopes they will advance to the national finals.  

Ethics Bowl Canada, a national organization established in 2014, “emphasizes impartial truth-seeking and promotes collaboration and empathy. Students learn to work together. They learn to hear alternative viewpoints,” as shared on their website.  

Philosophy professors Dr. Gus Skorburg and Dr. Don Dedrick were the faculty leads organizing this event which took place in the newly renovated Arts Research Centre (ARC) in the College of Arts at the U of G. Approximately 84 students from across southern Ontario, 29 judges from U of G and various other institutions, 10 moderators consisting of current Philosophy students, in addition to the provincial organizing committee, were hosted at the event. 

“We had a good problem. We had a record number of teams involved. It’s logistically complicated to host 14 teams, but difficulties were all worth it. The event went smoothly. From a philosophy and ethics point of view, it couldn’t have gone better,” reflected Skorburg. 

Once the scores were tallied after three rounds of matches, Craig Kielburger Secondary School of Milton was selected as the overall winner of the day and will progress to the Ontario Championship. To determine the second successful team to progress, the top two remaining teams, from Heart Lake Secondary School in Brampton and Abbey Park High School in Oakville, battled in a live-streamed fourth and final match for all attendees to watch. Students in this final round debated on the privatization of healthcare as well as the value of progressive fines.  

Judging the final competition were U of G Philosophy Professors Dr. Rowan Bell, Dr. Patricia Sheridan, and Dr. Andrew Bailey, who is also the associate dean of Research and Graduate Studies in the College of Arts at the U of G. After both groups faced challenging questions from the judges that were answered on the spot, Heart Lake Secondary School placed second. “I was so impressed by so many things about them, such as their perspicacity, just how quickly they were able to respond to ideas, the way they were able to both prepare well with these complex ideas and also just synthesize in the moment,” said Bell following the win. “It’s such a great space for collaboration, and honestly as an instructor, it’s a great opportunity for me. I think there’s a freshness that you get with high school students who are just coming to the realization of these ideas for the first time. It’s a beautiful thing to get to be part of,” they went on to say when looking back upon the day. 

Following their intense win, students Tanmai Sri Rangu (Grade 11), Amber Olma (Grade 12), and Kaven Kayilaasan (Grade 12) were surprised by the final results. “For the third match, we were listed as team A on the first schedule we got, so we were fully prepared to present the case that the other team was presenting. So, we had 10 minutes, barely even, to prepare for our case because we didn’t really research that deeply, so we just came up with that on the spot. The other team’s presentation was flawless, and ours was strung together last minute. It was stressful,” noted Sri Rangu of the winning team who was a first-time competitor, unlike her teammates who have competed in the Ethics Bowl for four consecutive years. “We came in with the mentality that we’re probably going to lose but we’re just here to have fun,” said Olma. “I was waiting for them to say, oh just kidding, miscalculation…I still don’t fully believe that it happened,” commented Olma after her team won three separate rounds.

“I've been involved in the Ethics Bowl for a number of years and it was so exciting to be able to bring it to Guelph and to have a regional competition in person. I love the energy of the students. They are so smart and earnest and care so much about ethical problems,” College of Arts dean Samantha Brennan shared following the event. 

The College of Arts was honoured to provide a forum for enlightening discussions on a range of critical topics and issues currently affecting the daily lives of individuals both at a local level and on a global scale.