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W&L Students Ponder Social-Media Dilemmas at Ethics Bowl

So here’s the dilemma: A mother reveals to her daughter, a recent college graduate, that her father, Jack, is not the daughter’s biological father. The mother had concealed an affair to protect Jack. The mother and daughter agree to continue the secret, and the mother lets the daughter know that the information she needs to contact her biological father is in the mother’s online diary. She promises to give the daughter the password when the daughter is ready to learn about her biological father. But the mother dies unexpectedly, and, with her, the password. In his grief, Jack wants to read his wife’s online diary, but the company that hosts the site claims it is not legally obligated to reveal passwords of the deceased.

Now to the question: Should the daughter encourage her father to take legal action or to hire a hacker to gain access to the diary in order to find her biological father, knowing that this will also give him access to information about the affair and her biological father?

This was the case that Washington and Lee’s team in the 14th annual Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Ethics Bowl had to analyze in the championship round. Students from 15 Virginia colleges examined case studies related to ethics and social media during the two-day event earlier this week at Randolph College, in Lynchburg.

W&L’s five-member team entered the championship round unbeaten but lost in the finals to Hampden-Sydney.

“Our team did an amazing job, and I could not have been more proud of all of them,” said Paul Gregory, professor of philosophy and faculty coordinator.

The W&L team comprised senior Reilly Kidwell, a philosophy and neuroscience major from Ottsville, Pa., and juniors Miles Abell, a philosophy major from Houston, Sarah Hugg, a philosophy and English major from New Orleans, Paul Kuveke, a philosophy major from Ridgefield, Conn., and James Spencer, a philosophy and politics major from Acworth, Ga.

This competition marked the seventh time in 14 VFIC Ethics Bowls that W&L had advanced to the championship round. The W&L team has won five previous championships.