The Local Voice

Learning the Art of Civil Discourse: Ole Miss Students Apply Ethical Theory for Decision-Making and Policy


The Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Mississippi is offering two events in the next few weeks exploring the ethical issues of timely topics.

Just Conversations is a fun event run by students from the Ethical Policy Debates class to explore ethical issues and think about potential solutions through low-key conversation on two hot-button issues. The event is an in-person reception from 5 to 6:30 pm Monday (October 25) in the Bryant Hall Gallery. Register by 5 pm Friday (October 22) at

The second event, The Great Debate of 2021, poses the question “Should patents be waived on COVID-19 vaccines to increase global vaccination rates?” The virtual event on November 11 features presentation of a debate followed by a Q&A between the teams, expert panelists and the audience. All are welcome to attend virtually, especially members of the campus community.

“The Dialogue and Deliberation Initiative events, both Just Conversations and The Great Debate of 2021, bring people together to discuss ethical problems that involve multiple perspectives, competing interests and complex empirical issues in a civil format for productive outcomes,” said Deborah Mower, a UM associate professor of philosophy and the Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hume Bryant Associate Professor of Ethics.

“We will be focusing on three topics from the slate of fall 2021 Regional Ethics Bowl cases.”

Ole Miss students are conducting research to prepare for discussions about rock climbing on federally protected indigenous cultural sites, the Disney company image and COVID-19 vaccine patents.

“There is no better educational model than the Ethics Bowl for teaching students how to apply ethical theory for decision-making and policy while at the same time fostering skills crucial for civil dialogue,” Mower said.

“It is so valuable to have our students thinking and working collaboratively toward solutions for these hot-button issues that our nation wrestles with currently.”

The UM Ethics Bowl team won the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.

The debate will be live-streamed via Zoom from 5:30 to 7:30 pm Nov. 11. A link to a recording of the session will be broadcast later via a UM Today announcement.

“The goal is to allow faculty greater flexibility of timing to use the debate as a case or example in their classes as well as an extra credit option,” Mower said.

Debate demonstrates the ability to be both considerate and tenacious, said Steven Skultety, UM professor  and chair of philosophy and religion.

“Students come out of this experience with a deep appreciation of ethics and new skills for engaging in civil discussion,” Skultety said.

Register in advance for The Great Debate of 2021 by 5 p.m. Nov. 9 at, then watch your email for confirmation of registration, the Zoom link to the event and a PDF of the case to read in advance.

Bolt anchors for rock climbing are placed near a petroglyph near Moab, Utah. UM students will debate the ethics of rock climbing on federally protected indigenous sites as part of the 2021 Regional Ethics Bowl. Photo by Darren Reay/Facebook
UM Ethics Bowl team members celebrate winning the 2019 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. Bria Mazique (front) shows off the team’s trophy with (clockwise) Alexandra Kotter, John Jacob Mabus, Justice Strickland, Jacob Ratliff, Harrison Durland and Mimi Shufelt. Submitted photo
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