Schools for whistle blowers

Mitcham, Carl

SCHOOLS FOR WHISTLE BLOWERS EDUCATING ETHICAL ENGINEERS CARL MITCHAM In the American economy, engineers occupy a place somewhere between farmers and venture capitalists. Although a source of...

...Unlike doctors and lawyers, engineers are seldom self-employed...
...Then, in dramatic confirmation of their concerns, on October 2. 1972, a BART train overran a station because of ATC failure and injured a number of passengers...
...For nearly a year, the three engineers had expressed their concerns to PBTB both orally and in writing, only to have them consistently set aside...
...Parks had criticized as unsafe a number of clean-up procedures after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and was subsequently demoted and fired...
...On June 19, a CSPE inquiry was submitted to the California Senate largely supporting the engineers...
...At Georgia Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, special courses stress science and technology policy...
...Max Blankenzee, and Robert Bruder (their names deserve to be remembered) had all independently become seriously concerned about the adequacy of ATC, as well as the installation and management procedures of the general contractors...
...the Ecole Polytechnique (founded 1794) and the Military Academy at West Point (1802) The Corps of Engineers remains an important branch of the US Army In such a context, the primary duty of engineers was to obey orders In peacetime, at least as far back as Rome...
...In 1895, in an ASCH presidential address, George S. Morison spelled out this idea: "We are the pnests of material development, of the work 202: Commonweal which enables other men to enjoy the fruits of the great sources of power in Nature, and of the power of mind over matter...
...P^^^^ and in tension with it, was a bold vision of the ^^^^^^^H engineer as the primary agent of technical ^^^^^^^m change and (he main force in human progress...
...Pressure by the presidential commission, however, got McDonald restored to his former position...
...The three-year-old En^^m ^HA vironmcntal Protection Agency banned DOT...
...etc This movement entailed both the explicit formulation of subservience to corporate interests and the creation of an ideology 10 Apnl 1987 201 thus setting up a tension which has yet to be fully resolved...
...Although a source of our high-tech bread and butter, engineers seldom benefit directly from the big-money investments that take their designs to the people The need for more US engineer...
...soldien> have been put to work building roads, bridges, and other communication infrastructures Yet it was not until the eighteenth century that John Smeaton (1724-1792...
...eveloping alongside the code of obedience...
...But the most important single event was what has become known as "the BART case...
...Parson...
...W^^^^^ As an analytic thinker free from the biases of special interest groups, the engineer insures that technical change eventuates in human benefit...
...World War II, which mobilized science and engineering for national purposes, and the postwar social recovery contributed to a temporary suppression of this tension...
...Brinkcrhoff...
...is touted by those concerned with the problems of competitiveness and defense Japan and the Soviet Union both graduate much higher percentages of engineers than the U S but in real life engineers are often charged with contributing to environmental mismanagement (the Army Corps of Engineers), industrial accidents (ThreeMile Island...
...Stanford University, for instance, in the 1970s created an interdisciplinary program in Values, Technology, Science, and Society under the direction of an aeronautical engineer, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute began to require a senior design project emphasizing societal relationships...
...It was Unger, for instance, who did the report on the BART case for the IF.EE and who was behind the creation of the public service award...
...Recently the organization that certifies engineering school programs has begun to ask schools to identify exactly what they are doing in the way of engineering-related ethics...
...and it is noteworthy that he has become the person in charge of the design modifications and Thiokol's representative to the press...
...During the last decade a number of engineering schools have instituted courses that begin to address this need...
...By this time, however, three engineers Holger Hjortsvanfc...
...first called himself a "civil engineer" a term which has come to designate one who designs transportation networks, dams, water-supply and sanitation systems, etc The creation of this civilian counterpart to military engineering initially gave no cause to alter the basic sense of engineenng obligation, and the civil engineer remained duty-bound to obey his employer, usually some arm of the government...
...Thorsten Veblen's The Engineers and the Price System (1921), for instance, argued that if engineers could be freed from subservience to business interests, their own standards of good and bad, right and wrong would lead to the creation of a more sound economy and better consumer products...
...10 April 1987: 205...
...As a result of their testimony before the presidential commission conducting its investigation...
...Unlike physicians and lawyers, who profess a loyalty to certain substantive ideals of health and justice, engineers seem to pursue nothing more than efficiency, efficiency as a means to an end determined by others...
...Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer (1982), Unger proposes a number of different ways that professional engineering societies can and should support the ethical practice of engineering especially "blowing the whistle" on actions and operations which do not live up to high standards of safety...
...Chernobyl), diverse technical failures (DC-1U crashes and the Challenger disaster...
...Construction began in 1963 and at the end of 1971, almost three years behind schedule and considerably over budget, was nearing the first stage of completion...
...But, according to the award citation, "His courageous adherence to the highest standards of professional ethics deserves the respect and admiration of the engineering profession...
...In his book...
...The later developments of engineenng (mechanical, chemical, electrical, etc ) simply transferred the obedience to business corporations In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, professional engineenng societies were established the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1852...
...rcfemng to one who designs and constructs battering rams, catapults, and other engines of war) were originally soldiers In Tnnlus and Cre%uda...
...Later revisions of the code were even stronger: "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public...
...Other schools, such as Cooper Union and Polytechnic University, offer courses explicitly devoted to the ethics of technology...
...The engineers appealed for support to the California Society of Professional Engineers (CSPE), arguing that they were only attempting to live up to the ethics code obligation to hold "the public welfare as paramount" and to "notify the proper ausafety and health...
...Engineers should also insist on internal company procedures for dealing 204: Commonweal adequately with professional disagreements...
...The first codes of engineering ethics define the primary duty of the engineer to be one of service as a "faithful agent or trustee" of some employing company...
...the computerization of society (vide hacker break ins and robotic-generated unemployment) and military defense (SDI) Because of such pressures engineenng education is being transformed, not just in its technical aspects by scientific advance, but in professional self-understanding Changes are taking place in professional definition and ethical expectation that arc equally if not more important than those normally thought of as the core of technical education To appreciate this phenomenon it is necessary to know something about where engineers come from and what they do Kngineenng is a step child of the professions, a concept formulated in relation to doctor., lawyers, and ministers during the nsc of the universities that implies advanced education leading to the performance of an important service in society Professions certify their members and exercise autonomy in their work But engineers, in comparison with the traditional professions, are not only late-comers, but lack prestige and autonomy Engineers (from the Latin ingtmaior...
...In a recent conversation, a former dean of engineering at the Catholic Universjty of America argued that the general moral climate precluded the need for a special emphasis on ethics in engineering . But when asked whether it was possible to cite some cases of graduates who had demonstrated the effectiveness of this moral climate by becoming involved in special kinds of engineering or becoming whistle blowers, neither the CUA nor the Notre Dame engineering schools could come up with any examples...
...There is ferment in the engineering educational establishment, however, and in the future some kind of ethics course may become a requirement for engineering degrees...
...The strongest way to institute such support, Unger argues, would be to follow the practices used successfully by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to defend the autonomy of university teachers...
...they arc dependent for remuneration on already established social organizations agencies of the state or private corporations...
...the largest engineering society in the world, led to the creation of an Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest, first given in 1978 to Hjortsvang, Blankenzee...
...We arc the priests of the new epoch, without superstitions...
...The BART system was temporarily shut down Prior to the BART case, the only ways in which professional engineering societies had acted to enforce their ethics code had been to discipline engineers usually by expelling them from the professional society for being disloyal to a company or employer This was the first time a professional engineering society had backed its members by criticizing a specific corporation...
...And on January 26, 1986...
...BART was to be the most advanced rapid transit in the world, eliminating both motormen and conductors, operated and monitored by an automated train control (ATC) system...
...and Bruder...
...Last year the need for more engineering independence was highlighted by the disaster of the space shuttle Challenger Two engineers, Allan McDonald and Roger Boisjoly had raised questions about the O-ring seals on the rocket booster at least a year before the accident...
...the Amencan Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASMh) in 1880...
...Bhopal...
...Samuel Johnsons Dictionary (1755) defines "engineer" as ( akl mitcham whose books include Philosophy and Technology (Free Press) and Theology and Technology fUmversiry Press of America), it director of the Philosoph\ and Technolog\ Studies Center at Polytechnic Umverstl\ in .\>h York "one who directs the artillery of an army " Indeed, the first schools to grant engineenng degrees were associated with the military e.g...
...Consequently, engineers perform many more functions there than in the U.S...
...These papers were then distributed to the full board and to BART management...
...McDonald and Boisjoly were demoted by their employer, Morton Thiokol...
...Perhaps no single engineer has done more to promote this new alignment than Stephen H Unger, an electrical engineer at Columbia University...
...The press became aware of the controversy, and late in February 1972 there was a public 10 April 1987: 203 BART management...
...The problem for engineers, however, has been how to develop the professional autonomy that would enable them to practice this commitment...
...Indeed, it is precisely this view of engineering that makes it a "safe" subject in Soviet universities, and is one reason why the USSR produces so many more engineers than the U.S...
...Blankenzee, and Bruder were fired...
...And they should honor those who have lived up to the highest ethical ideals at great professional cost...
...In the late 1950s, metropolitan San Francisco decided to create the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system...
...The seeds of this revived tension were planted in 1947 when the Hngincers' Council for Professional IX'velopment (F.CPD) drew up the first engineering ethics code for various branches of engineering and affirmed an engineering responsibility not just to an employer but to the "public welfare...
...Indeed, in Parks's own words upon acceptance of the award: "Recent events involving the Challenger shuttle remind the world that integrity and dedication to professionalism have to be a central concept in the decision-making process...
...architect of the Eddystone Lighthouse and other "public works...
...Achilles is termed "a rare engineer...
...both explicitly opposed the launch scheduled for the next day...
...A further report by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IHHE...
...The same vision spawned the technocracy movement, the idea that engineers should be given political and economic power...
...Although so far an isolated case the situation with Boisjoly has not been so favorably resolved this certainly points toward a new alignment of forces in the engineering world...
...K^^L conjunction of events in 1972 contributed ^^H^^^ to the germination of a new professional ^^^V^^^k self-understanding which began to address ^^^P^^^^k this weakness...
...Later, the consumer and environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s brought it back to the fore and provoked some engineers to challenge corporate direction...
...The public service award is, of course, a kind of education both of the public and of engineers, but the new engineering ethics also requires that these ideals become part of the classroom experience of student engineers...
...Tudor, and Bechtel (PBTB...
...for instance...
...Last May, Unger presented the third Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest to engineer Richard Parks...
...So the engineers contacted a member of the BART oversight board and conveyed to him a number of papers documenting their case...
...At its height between the wars, this vision of expanded engineering activity contributed to the election of Herbert Hoover, the first engineer president Jimmy Carter was the second...
...When engineers are punished for properly exercising their professional responsibilities, engineering societies like the AAUP should undertake an investigation, a publication of the findings, and (if necessary) a censure of the company involved...
...Associated with changes in professional self-understanding by engineers, surely this is at least as important a change in engineering education as those regularly demanded by technical advances within science and technology...
...Individual engineers find it difficult to offset this organizational disadvantage and express their own professional interest or moral standards...
...Congress set up the Office of Technology Assessment and a program at the National Science Foundation to fund research on ethics and values in science and technology...
...So far these have remained voluntary projects and not, it should be noted, projects for which engineering schools in Catholic universities are taking any real initiative...
...On March 3. Hjortsvang...

Vol. 114 • April 1987 • No. 7


 
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