Ethics Competitions

The Center for the Study of Ethics in Society at Western Michigan University participates in two different undergraduate ethics competitions: the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl and Bioethics Bowl.

Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl

The bowl provides students with an opportunity to practice applying the moral theories and argumentation principles that they learn in their ethics classes. Students receive a set of case studies in advance involving ethical issues in a number of practical contexts, including engineering, law, medicine, personal relationships, school and politics.

During a round, each team takes turns presenting its position on a case and critiquing the other team’s position on a different case. Teams must answer questions about their positions from a panel of judges. Judges assign scores based on logical consistency, clarity, focus and thoroughness.

WMU has competed in the bowl contest every year since it expanded from an intramural event at the Illinois Institute of Technology to a small regional contest involving a handful of colleges in 1994—an event WMU won. The competition went national in 1997. The national championship takes place every spring at the annual meeting of the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. WMU’s best national showings were third out of 14 teams in 1998, fifth out of 26 teams in 2000, and ninth out of 32 teams in 2007.

The bowl became a tiered competition beginning in 2007, with practices and regional contests taking place every fall. WMU’s team won the 2006 regional qualifier at Harper College and the 2007 qualifier at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

Ethics Bowl team forming for 2017

The 2017 regional qualifier will be November 18 at Oakland University. There will be an informational meeting for undergraduates interested in competing at 5:30 p.m. September 13 in 2072 Moore Hall. For more information contact Sandra Borden at

Bioethics Bowl

The Bioethics Bowl uses a similar format to the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. It is a national competition that takes place every spring at the National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference and focuses on a narrower range of ethical issues in science, medicine and public health. Practices and competition take place every spring semester.

Join a team

If you are interested in being on one of these teams, contact Sandra Borden.