UCSC's team gears up for Ethics Bowl in San Antonio.

Nothing fuels a productive and intelligent practice discussion like a crisp beer in one hand, and a pile of Goldfish in the other. This is how the UCSC Ethics Bowl team is preparing for the upcoming national competition in San Antonio, Texas on Feb. 28.

Ethics Bowl is like Debate Team, but with a philosophical approach. Instead of using the law to support their claims, or discussing pros and cons, the teams make arguments as to what they find morally permissible.

To prepare, the Slugs have been extensively discussing a range of real-life case studies, such as PETA’s extreme tactics, illegal DVD copying for American troops and exotic game hunting on U.S. ranches. They don’t know in advance which case they’ll have to discuss in front of an opposing team and panel of judges. But they’ll be scored based on their response, their level of preparation, coherency, focus and their respectful handling of the topics.

“It’s not about the end result,” says team member Hanna Pitz. “If we win, great. If we don’t, it doesn’t mean the skills I have acquired disappear. We have brought theories to life and challenged each other to have an open mind.

“Ethics Bowl strives to cultivate civic virtue,” says UCSC’s team coach, Kyle Robertson. “They are practicing to be engaged citizens of our democracy.”

Okay, sure, winning isn’t everything, but…are they going to win? If the team brings it this week in Texas, Robertson thinks their chances are good.

“We have a great team this year,” he says. “We have the ability to win the whole thing.”