Monday, March 02, 2009

Corpus Disqualified On University Challenge

As readers will know, there's been a lot of attention given to Corpus Christi's win on University Challenge this year. Sadly, the team has now been disqualified, since one of the contestants was (due to failure to get PhD funding) was no longer a student by the time of the final.

This is obviously very sad news for all involved, particularly the other three members of the team (though, of course, they're no less clever for this). I find it strange that the BBC had not at any point checked this eligibility beforehand, but if they weren't told maybe that's fair enough. If there was a rule breach then stripping Corpus of the title is presumably justified, but what I do find strange is awarding it to Manchester. Just because Manchester reached the final, there's no way of knowing whether or not they would have beaten whoever would have taken Corpus' place - I think it's a serious injustice there.

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At 11:59 pm, Anonymous Grace said...

Hello, I've enjoyed reading some of your posts on majority rule (eg and was wondering if you could recommend any books about it (/democracy) that would be suitable for a year 12 student interested in applying for PPE? I haven't really read much about it yet apart from some bits in Models of Democracy (Held) and in Is Democracy Possible here (Dworkin). (I'm also 50 pages through your thesis.)

Thanks, Grace

At 12:02 am, Blogger Peter said...


I personally found Adam Swift's POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: AN INTRODUCTION FOR STUDENTS AND POLITICIANS to be the best introduction. It covers democracy (and other topics) well, and is certainly accessible for a year 12 student.

At 8:56 am, Blogger Ben said...

Hi Grace,

Peter's recommendation is a good one (although note that democracy is only covered in the second edition of Swift's book). Also Bernard Crick's Very Short Introduction to democracy and/or Robert Dahl's On Democracy, which are both probably a bit more introductory but well suited I'd say to a potential PPEist.


At 4:33 pm, Blogger Rob Jubb said...

You really think it's a serious injustice? Serious? Really? Like slavery? I'm pretty sure I don't think it's an injustice at all, although it may depend on whether there were rules about what happens if a team gets disqualified. If there are rules, then it's just a straightforward case of applying the rules and getting pure procedural justice. Even if there aren't rules, then given the disruption of various legitimate expectations re-running the competition would involve, you clearly can't justly correct the whole of the injustice of the rule-violation. On the other hand, you can't just leave Corpus champions. The thing which minimizes disruption and also avoids leaving Corpus champions is giving it to whomever they contested the final against. Hence, just solution.

At 4:38 pm, Blogger Ben said...

Ok, not injustice on that scale, but serious relative to what we're talking about.

Do you really think it's simply a matter of following what rules there are? What if the rules said a team caught cheating should be shot? Or if they said do nothing (in which case, Corpus would still be champions).

As I say, I have no problem with disqualifying Corpus, but I don't see why the title should default to Manchester - it should simply be vacant.

At 4:59 pm, Blogger Rob Jubb said...

As long as the rules don't require doing anything which is antecedentally morally unacceptable - like murder - I don't have a problem with them, I don't think. Hence if the rules said 'no champions if the winner is disqualified', I'd be fine with that. You need the stronger claim, that not only must the rules not do anything which is antecedentally unacceptable, but that further, that the activity 'University Challenge' itself generates some moral demands. Now, that might be plausible: re-running the entire contest as a custard pie-throwing competition in the event of the winners being disqualified I think would at least be odd and maybe something we might complain about and disapprove of. You, though, need those moral demands to be ones which rule out the simple expedient of declaring the losing finalists the champions, which hardly seems to subvert the purposes of the contest in the same way as the custard pie-throwing contest. More than that, it also seems to be in tension with your general approval of lotteries for distributing scarce goods, since we might think lotteries do subvert practices: this seems to be part of the objection to coin-tosses and penalty shoot-outs to decide football matches, for example.

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