VFIC environmental Ethics Bowl supported by initiator Jane P. Batten

Ethics Bowl team junior Christian Palmisano, junior Casey Bennett, junior Abigail Villacrusis and senior Rowan Stuart compete at Hollins University.

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) Ethics Bowl hosted at Hollins University on Jan. 25 and 26 focused on a theme of “Ethics and the Environment.” Virginia Wesleyan students attended the tournament and competed in debates against four other teams, three of which they won.

The “Ethics and the Environment” theme at this year’s Ethics Bowl resonates strongly with the student population, as well as with young people as a whole. Junior and Ethics Bowl member Casey Bennett expressed this sentiment.

“I thought the theme was really pertinent, because I know, especially here, we stress the need for thinking about environmental issues and the longevity of the environment and how we interact with it,” Bennett said. “I was happy because there’s a lot of cases where your stance can’t just be pro-environment.”

Junior and team member Abigail Villacrusis agreed that it is a necessary topic. “I thought the theme was very relevant to current issues,” she said. 

Villacrusis also said that she appreciated the nuanced cases presented to the team. “I was a little worried that everything would just be like, ‘Oh well of course we should defend the environment,’ but they did a good job of getting variety in the type of cases,” Villacrusis said.

President Scott D. Miller and Trustee Emeritus Jane P. Batten were both in attendance at this year’s Ethics Bowl. Batten has a long history as a supporter of the VFIC Ethics Bowl. Batten’s son, Frank Batten Jr., is also on the board of trustees for the VFIC.

The VFIC tweeted, “The VFIC was pleased to honor Jane Parke Batten at the Ethics Bowl Dinner held at @HollinsU on 1/28 for her long history of support for educational institutions. She and her late husband, Frank Batten, Sr., were instrumental in providing early support for the Ethics Bowl program.” 

Batten was honored at this dinner for her dedication to higher-education, as well as to the Ethics Bowl itself.

According to Miller, the VFIC dinner set a fundraising record, earning $75,000 for scholarships. A press release from VFIC explained that this goes toward VFIC students from the Roanoke/Southwest Virginia and Southeast Virginia/South Hampton Roads regions.  

Miller spoke on the personal significance the event had for him and Batten. 

“This event, beyond being an academic competition, embodies the vital role of ethics in shaping the minds and characters of students across Virginia’s selective private colleges and universities,” Miller said. “For Jane Batten to attend this year’s event, especially when it was held at her alma mater, Hollins University, and dedicated in her honor, was profoundly meaningful.”

Miller also highlighted the contributions of Batten and her family. 

“Jane and her late husband’s foundational support for the VFIC, including initiating the Ethics Bowl and the creation of the Frank and Jane Batten Trophy, underscores their lasting legacy in promoting ethical engagement among students,” Miller said. “Their contributions have not only facilitated the practical exploration of ethics but also highlighted the importance of moral considerations in every aspect of life.”

To attend the event, Miller and Batten took a private jet to Hollins University. Bennett and Villacrusis acknowledged the environmental aspects of plane travel. 

“I think we need to be careful to not paint one action of a person as indicative of their entire efforts on the environmental front, because I’m sure she’s [Jane Batten] done much more than many people in getting students to talk about ethics, environmentalism, and the importance of talking about these issues,” Bennett said. 

He also shared his belief that people must be viewed through the larger picture of their actions, and not based on one single action.

Villacrusis noted that plane travel in any form has environmental consuequences. “For the average person, the largest part of their carbon footprint is if they’ve ever taken a plane anywhere,” she said. “And so it did kind of feel odd to have them take that, especially when it’s within the state, so it wasn’t a particularly long flight or anything.”

President Miller said, “In 33 years as a college president, I have been fortunate enough to have many good friends who have invited me to join them on their private planes. This was one such opportunity and didn’t cost the University anything,” regarding the use of the jet as a means of transportation.

The presence of Miller and Batten in support of the Ethics Bowl illustrated the importance that they place on the event and the opportunities that it presents to students and their education. 

By Aiden Croghan