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# Ethical Decision Making (pending integration of business ethics cases)

Module by: William Frey, Jose A. Cruz-Cruz. E-mail the authors

Summary: This module began as a modification of the Gray Matters activity that is used in ethics training workshops at the Boeing corporation. (See Carolyn Whitbeck, Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research, 176-181 for a more detailed history.) This version is based on short decision-making scenarios provided by engineers participating in ethics workshops. Students practice integrating ethical considerations into realistic decision-making situations. This module is being developed as a part of an NSF-funded project, "Collaborative Development of Ethics Across the Curriculum Resources and Sharing of Best Practices," NSF SES 0551779.

Gray Matters: Student Version

Decision-Making in Engineering (A revision of the DEMO COPY - Testing Module Revision)

By William J. Frey, José A. Cruz, and Halley D. Sanchez

Cases developed through NSF SBR-9810253 and UPRM ABET EAC Workshops. Module format modified from Gray Matters written by George Sammet. (See Whitbeck, Caroline. 1998. Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 176-181.) This case is part of the Ethics Across the Curriculum Toolkit project funded by the National Science Foundation, Grant Number 0551779.

Directions:

1. Read the following scenarios and the accompanying solutions.

2. Evaluate the alternatives in terms of the following tests.

3. Choose the one you think best or design your own solution.

4. Summarize your results in the form of a solution evaluation matrix.

5. Make a big matrix (to present to the class) and a small matrix (one for each group).

6. Prepare to debate your solution with another group using the ethics tests as your justification.

REVERSIBILITY: Would I think this is a good choice if I were among those affected by it?

PUBLICITY: Would I want this action published in the newspaper?

HARM: Does this action do less harm than any available alternatives?

CODE TEST: Does the solution alternative carry out or violate any code provisions?

FEASIBILITY: Can this solution be implemented given time, technical, economic, legal, and political constraints?

An engineer notices a fine white powder that covers everything in a room that has a laminating press. When she finds out that the press operator has been working in this room for over 10 years, she becomes concerned about the risks the white power could present to his health. What should she do?

a. Do nothing. Notifying the worker of the risk could raise legal problems. And should you notify your supervisor (or the worker's supervisor) you raise the probability that they would shoot the messenger rather than respond to the message.

c. Check into OSHA regulations concerning the powder. Should the regulations warrant it, notify OSHA of the problem. Then, through appropriate company channels notify the operator and make sure that he receives a thorough medical examination to determine if any harm has occurred. Then check to make sure that the appropriate follow-up examinations are carried out.

d. Take a confrontational stance. Threaten to blow the whistle publicly on this situation unless supervisors take immediate action.

Solution Evaluation Matrix:

 Alternative/Test Feasibility Test (Check time, money, technical, and social factors) Reversibility Test (Apply reversibility test to alternatives) Harm Test (Apply harm test to alternatives) Publicity Test (Apply publicity test to alternatives) Alternative One Alternative Two Alternative Three Alternative Four Alternative Five

Gray Matters: Student Version

Decision-Making in Engineering

By William J. Frey, José A. Cruz, and Halley D. Sanchez

Cases Developed Through NSF SBR-9810253 and UPRM ABET EAC Workshops

Directions:

1. Read the following scenarios and the accompanying solutions.

2. Evaluate the alternatives in terms of the following tests.

3. Choose the one you think best or design your own solution.

4. Summarize your results in the form of a solution evaluation matrix.

5. Make a big matrix (to present to the class) and a small matrix (one for each group).

6. Prepare to debate your solution with another group using the ethics tests as your justification.

REVERSIBILITY: Would I think this is a good choice if I were among those affected by it?

PUBLICITY: Would I want this action published in the newspaper?

HARM: Does this action do less harm than any available alternatives?

CODE TEST: Does the solution alternative carry out or violate any code provisions?

FEASIBILITY: Can this solution be implemented given time, technical, economic, legal, and political constraints?

You are an electrical engineer and have been practicing as a professional engineer for five years now. A close friend and cousin of yours has just completed a one year vocational draftsmanship program and comes to you with a proposal. He will develop blueprints for clients at $75 dollars a page, and bring you the final version for you to sign off on for anywhere from$200 to $300 (depending on the complexity). You keep the fee for signing off on the blueprints while he keeps the$75 per page fee. What should you do?

a. Don't do it! This would violate canon 2 of the CIAPR's code of ethics.

b. Don't do it! Even though it doesn't violate canon 2, it violates 5j.

c. Do it. After all, it's common practice and your cousin is perfectly capable of drawing up adequate blueprints. (It's also good for the family, and your uncle would vouch for him.)

d. Consult with someone (an official of the CIAPR or one of your former university professors) to see if this would be a violation of the spirit of the engineering code of ethics.

Solution Evaluation Matrix:

 Alternative/Test Feasibility Test (Check time, money, technical, and social factors) Reversibility Test (Apply reversibility test to alternatives) Harm Test (Apply harm test to alternatives) Publicity Test (Apply publicity test to alternatives) Alternative One Alternative Two Alternative Three Alternative Four Alternative Five

Gray Matters: Student Version

Decision-Making in Engineering

By William J. Frey, José A. Cruz, and Halley D. Sanchez

Cases Developed Through NSF SBR-9810253 and UPRM ABET EAC Workshops

Directions:

1. Read the following scenarios and the accompanying solutions.

2. Evaluate the alternatives in terms of the following tests.

3. Choose the one you think best or design your own solution.

4. Summarize your results in the form of a solution evaluation matrix.

5. Make a big matrix (to present to the class) and a small matrix (one for each group).

6. Prepare to debate your solution with another group using the ethics tests as your justification.

REVERSIBILITY: Would I think this is a good choice if I were among those affected by it?

PUBLICITY: Would I want this action published in the newspaper?

HARM: Does this action do less harm than any available alternatives?

CODE TEST: Does the solution alternative carry out or violate any code provisions?

FEASIBILITY: Can this solution be implemented given time, technical, economic, legal, and political constraints?

3. A UPRM coop student notices that workers who use catalyst A in a manufacturing process habitually violate safety protocols. She finds this disturbing since she knows that A causes cancer. During a meeting of her work group, she expresses her concerns and recommends that they switch to catalyst B which is non-carcinogenic. The leader of the group, a senior engineer, tells her to drop the issue. Because the workers are violating safety procedures, they are responsible for whatever harm may occur, not the company. Furthermore, he has already looked into catalyst B, and it is much more expensive to use than A. What should the coop student do?

a. Do nothing. As the team leader has pointed out, this is not really her concern.

b. Point out that as an engineer she is committed to uphold the code of ethics which states that public safety is of paramount concern. If they continue to use catalyst A, they must inform the workers of its carcinogenic properties and of the availability of safer alternatives such as catalyst B. To do anything less is to violate a fundamental professional moral imperative.

d. Since this is clearly a public safety issue (worker safety), and since public safety is paramount, the student should go to the nearest television station and blow the whistle on her employer.

Solution Evaluation Matrix:

 Alternative/Test Feasibility Test (Check time, money, technical, and social factors) Reversibility Test (Apply reversibility test to alternatives) Harm Test (Apply harm test to alternatives) Publicity Test (Apply publicity test to alternatives) Alternative One Alternative Two Alternative Three Alternative Four Alternative Five

For further explanation on pedagogical issues associated with this module, we have inserted a link to computingcases.org, an NSF project devoted to developing case studies for use in classes and integration activities in practical and professional ethics. Project leader, Dr. Charles Huff, provides material designed to orient those new to practical and professional ethics on how to introduce case based activities into the classroom. Relevant sections describe the ethics tests used in this module (reversibility, harm/beneficence, and publicity), advice on how to organize ethical discussions in the classroom, and a worksheet that represents a variation on the solution evaluation matrix presented above.

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