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Instructor Guidelines (Hughes Obligatory)

Structure of the assignment

In this exercise, students are presented with the most severe version of Goodearl's decision, and asked to use Richard De George's criteria for whistleblowing to evaluate whether she is justified in blowing the whistle, or perhaps even morally obligated to blow the whistle.

Using the basic assignment, students would be assigned to read the core and some of the background material before they came to class.

  1. The first few minutes of class could be used answering questions about the case, based on your knowledge from materials the students have not read.
  2. Another 10-15 minutes might be taken to outline Goodearl's responsibilities (this is like listing stakeholders in a case). We provide a suggested list of responsibilities below that you might use in prompting the class.
  3. Students would then be divided into groups and given the whistleblowing criteria and questions provided in the resources section.
  4. Groups would then report back to the class their decisions
  5. You could then have a large class discussion about whether the De George criteria captured all of the things the students thought important in making the decision.
  6. Students could then be assigned to write a short paper summarizing their own position.

Variations on the exercise include assigning a paper before the class, and having groups debate pro and con for each of the criteria.

Integrating the exercise into a class

This exercise can be done with little prerequisite preparation other than the immediate reading. It is thus a good activity to liven up a week devoted to professional responsibility. This exercise might also be connected with other ones (like the Hughes memo exercise or the Hughes Reporting System exercise) to constitute, along with some lecture, a course module on professionalism.

Time required

A short version, done as a whole class discussion with the reading done in preparation before class, could take 15 minutes. The standard version could be stretched to take a 90 minute class period.

Introducing the exercise

Little additional preparation is required for this exercise. Students should be reminded that their job is to evaluate Goodearl's course of action and not to judge other actors in the case.

Making and grading assignments

The assignments you give in this case depend upon your goals. You need nothing other than the reading if your goal is simply to make student aware of the issues. But if it is to give them practice in making decisions in a professional context, then you may want to have an assignment that structures and documents individual analysis of the decision. Within this exercise, you have the option of requiring a short paper either before the in-class discussion or after (or both).

A before class short paper might be due first thing in class and might simply ask students to use their own judgment to determine whether they would recommend Goodearl blow the whistle. This would be based on reading the four Goodearl scenarios, and perhaps in addition the pages about whistleblowing. An after class paper could be informed by De George's criteria, the class discussion, and additional reading. Since the after class paper is informed by more material, students will need a few days to complete it (unless they are taking no other classes). If you intend to have students do both papers, you might have them compare the change in their decision, decision criteria, or complexity of their view of the decision from the first to the second paper.

When designing your grading rubrics for the papers remember to keep in mind what specific items you want them to use in the paper. Possibilities include: De George's criteria to support analysis, critique of De George's criteria themselves, the IEEE ethical dissent guidelines (mentioned in the whistleblowing reading), and the stakeholder and responsibility analysis.

Links for the Instructor

De George, R.T. 1990, Business Ethics, 3d ed. 208-212. (MacMillan Publishing, New York). 

Possible difficulties

Students may wonder why the fuss over whether blowing the whistle is permitted. To help them answer this you might ask them what they are assuming about the situation. Likely, they are already assuming some of the criteria in De George's list. Making the list of responsibilities as a part of the exercise also helps to answer this question. The decision about permissibility is important because Goodearl has obligations to her employer. Blithely accusing one's employer, in a public forum, of wrongdoing is a breech of the employee's responsibility.