Cornell wins its first Ethics Bowl

From left: Dana Bardolph, Danielle Vander Horst, Lindsay Petry, Elizabeth Bews, and Elizabeth Proctor

Cornell’s team won the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Ethics Bowl on April 12 in Washington, DC. They were the first Cornell team to participate in the competition, which has been held for 14 years.

The Cornell team consisted of first year M.A students in the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies (CIAMS): Elizabeth Bews, Lindsay Petry, Elizabeth Proctor and Danielle Vander Horst;  Dana Bardolph, Hirsch postdoctoral associate, served as faculty mentor. CIAMS faculty members Nerissa Russell, professor of anthropology, and Matthew Velasco, assistant professor of anthropology, also attended.

The Ethics Bowl pits teams of undergraduate and graduate students from different universities in debates about ethical dilemmas archaeologists encounter during their work. Teams are given hypothetical cases and must use their academic knowledge of various ethical guidelines and laws, as well as their personal research and fieldwork experiences, to formulate and defend their solutions. The teams are graded on their responses and their handling of “curveball” questions. The cases for this year’s Bowl were on occupational safety and heritage management, colonial monuments and indigenous rights, looting and the antiquities trade, plagiarism, and funding for research and ethics training.

“My students have a diverse array of interests in archaeology, ranging from landscape archaeology to heritage tourism to bioarchaeology,” Bardolph said. “In preparing for the cases for this year’s Ethics Bowl, they were exposed to a broad range of topics related to ethical issues in archaeology, from ethical museum practice to sexual harassment to responsibilities to descendant communities.”

As part of their prize package, the team received a year’s membership in the Archaeological Institute of America and a subscription to Archaeology Magazine, as well as new Marshalltown trowels and a cash prize from the Register of Professional Archaeologists. The team will also bring home the Ethics Bowl itself, which will be displayed on the second floor of McGraw Hall on an engraved pedestal, until next spring’s competition at the 2019 SAA Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“The Ethics Bowl is a wonderful opportunity for students to practice ethical decision making before being placed in a hard situation in real life,” said Bardolph, who was part of the 2011 Ethics Bowl winning team, and subsequently served as a moderator and judge for the competition.

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a communications assistant for the College of Arts & Sciences.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.


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		 The four Ethics Bowl team members and Dana Randolph, each with one hand on the award bowl