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This module is designed to teach students about rights by presenting a framwork for justifying rights claims and then grounding them in everyday practice. Students learn the framework; key elements are summarized in this module. Then they are assigned a right claim which they validate and contextualize using this framework. 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.

Module introduction

Preliminary Draft distributed at APPE, 2005 in San Antonio, TX

Engineers and other professionals work in large corporations under the supervision of managers who may lack their expertise, skills, and commitment to professional standards. This creates communication and ethical challenges. At the very least, professionals are put in the position of having to advocate their ethical and professional standards to those who, while not being opposed to them, may not share their understanding of and commitment to them.

This module is designed to give you the tools and the practice using them necessary to prevail in situations that require advocacy of ethical and professional standards. In this module you carry out several activities. (1) You will study the philosophical and ethical foundations of modern rights theory through a brief look at Kantian Formalism. (2) You will learn a framework for examining the legitimacy of rights claims. (3) You will practice this framework by examining several rights claims that engineers make over their supervisors. This examination will require that you reject certain elements, rephrase others, and generally recast the claim to satisfy the requirments of the rights justification framework. (4) Finally, in small groups you will build tables around your reformulation of these rights claims and present the results to the class. This module will help you to put your results together with the rest of your classmates and collectively assemble a toolkit consisting of the legitimate rights claims that engineers and other professionals can make over their managers and supervisors.

For more background on rights theory and the relation of rights and duties see (1) Henry Shue, Basic Rights: Subsistence, Affluence, and U.S. Foreign Policy , 2nd edition, Princeton, 1980 and (2) Thomas Donaldson, The Ethics of International Business , Oxford, 1989. This exercise has been used in computer and engineering ethics classes at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez from 2002 on to the present. It is being incorporated into the textbook, Good Computing: A Virtue Approach to Computer Ethics by Chuck Huff, William Frey, and Jose Cruz.

What you need to know...

    Problematic right claims

  • El derecho para actuar de acuerdo a la conciencia etica y rechazar trabajos en los cuales exista una variacion de opinones morales.
  • El derecho de expresar juicio profesional, y hacer pronunciamientos publicos que sean consistentes con restricciones corporativas sobre la informacion propietaria.
  • El derecho a la lealtad corporativa y la libertad de que sea hecho un chivo expiatorio para catastrofes naturales, ineptitud de administracion u otras fuerzas mas alla del control del ingeniero.
  • El derecho a buscar el mejoramiento personal mediante estudios postgraduados y envolverse en asociaciones profesionales.
  • .El derecho a participar en actividades de partidos politicos fuera de las horas de trabajo.
  • El derecho a solicitar posiciones superiores con otras companias sin que la companis en la que trabaje tome represalias contra el ingeniero.
  • El derecho al debido proceso de ley y la libertad de que se le apliquen penalidades arbitrarias o despidos.
  • El derecho a apelar por revision ante una asociacion profesional, ombudsman o arbitro independiente.
  • El derecho a la privacidad personal.
  • Rights claims come from: Bill W. Baker. (2004) "Engineering Ethics: An Overview," in Engineering Ethics: Concepts, Viewpoints, Cases and Codes , eds. Jimmy H. Smith and Patricia M. Harper. Compiled and Published by the National Institute for Engineering Ethics: 21-22.
  • Translated into Spanish and published in: Etica en la Practica Profesional de la Ingenieria by Wilfredo Munoz Roman published in 1998 by the Colegio de Ingenieros y Agrimensores de Puerto Rico and Universidad Politecnica de Puerto Rico

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Source:  OpenStax, Modules linking to computing cases. OpenStax CNX. Jul 26, 2007 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col10423/1.2
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