OGDEN -- A team of Weber State students has taken top regional honors in a "bowl game" of a different sort.
The WSU team won the 11th annual Wasatch Regional Ethics Bowl Competition and will advance to the national championship March 1 in Cincinnati.
"It was a solid performance by every member of the team that contributed to our going undefeated," said Richard Greene, a WSU philosophy professor who serves as the team's faculty sponsor and head coach.
"The competition is always tough, but I feel very good about our chances with this team. They work hard, they're very bright, and they have a very good sense about how to compete in an Ethics Bowl."
The team members, all from Ogden, are Brandi Christensen and Pieter Sawatzki, philosophy majors; Anthony Tran, a philosophy and English major; Kevin Willardsen, a philosophy and quantitative economics major; and John Riley Piccolo, a philosophy major also seeking a bachelor of integrated studies degree in Spanish, mathematics and economics.
The winning team is one of three from WSU that competed.
Other schools that brought teams to the competition at Weber State were Westminster College, Utah Valley University, Utah State University, Salt Lake Community College, the University of Utah and Carleton College of Minnesota.
A team from Westminster College came in second and also will travel to the nationals.
Greene said topics for the regional and national competitions are announced in advance, and teams get to fully research the themes to develop supportable opinions.
He said his favorite example of a topic from years ago involved the Ku Klux Klan in Missouri and its desire to join the Adopt a Highway Program. The KKK would keep a stretch of highway clean in exchange for a posted sign of recognition, which would be viewed by black children bused to school via the highway.
"This is one that actually happened," Greene said. "The ACLU sued the state on behalf of the Klan. It was a tough moral issue. You can't violate First Amendment rights, but you can't expose African American children to a sign indicating KKK members are good people who clean up."
In the 2005 Supreme Court case, the American Civil Liberties Union and the KKK won.
Student teams learn their topic ahead of time but don't learn their exact question until the bowl, Greene said.
Teams debate a point of view, which is rebutted by another team, then the first team rebuts the rebuttal.
Competition judges determine which team made the better-supported ethical argument and consider all relevant factors.
With the win, WSU has won the regional competition three times. This is the fifth time in the past six years that WSU teams have advanced to the 32-team nationals.
Greene said preparing for ethics competition requires hard work and dedication.
"It's rare to see people working for several weeks on the nuances of complex issues," he said.
"In the world today, people tend to debate moral issues in sound bites. The team has a commitment to the truth, and not just picking the side that gives the best chance of winning. They want to support what is right."
Greene said his students strive to see all sides of an issue and often change their minds when more information reveals a greater truth.
"It's very refreshing for me to see them learning to make better judgements," he said.
"This kind of thinking isn't just about moral issues, it's about processing the benefits in all parts of life. These students can use their skills to decide whether to vote for a particular candidate, to decide whether to buy a home or uproot the family for a job.
"It allows them to work through all the nonsense, get to the heart of the issue and always make an informed decision."