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Instructor Guidelines (Hughes Saia)

Structure of the assignment

This is a decision making and evaluation exercise that is centered on what might be the central decision in the case: Saia's decision about whether to commit Hughes to fraud. The ethics tests here help to clarify this decision by enforcing a careful evaluation of Saia's options. Students will need some creativity in designing their own option for Saia, and will need support. It can be useful to have them evaluate the listed options first before trying to come up with an alternative.

Students are given some background reading as homework from the list of readings for the exercise. Feel free to add other readings as you wish. You might then spend the first few minutes of class giving an overview of the exercise, and answering questions about the decision choices that Saia faces. Your answers can come from your broader reading of the case presented here. Students would then work on evaluating the options, and finally report to the class.

This exercise can be structured as a small group discussion or an individual activity that students do as homework. If students will be doing the evaluation exercise as a short paper or for a presentation in class, they should already have been presented with the ethics tests and helped to understand their difficulties and dangers. If you will be dividing the class up into groups for the exercise, there are several options for making groups assignments. Each group could be given one alternative to evaluate (in detail) and asked to construct one alternative. Alternatively each group could be assigned to use the ethics tests to argue in favor of an assigned alternative, with the presentation structured somewhat like a debate.

Integrating the exercise into a class

This exercise requires that the students have some facility with the ethics tests, unless you are using the exercise to introduce the tests to them. If you are introducing the tests with this exercise, then you should make sure you have covered them in detail in a prior class period.

Some summary of the points learned (and connection to the next day) is always helpful at the end of class. In this case the point may be about the range of options Saia really has, the importance of professional standards, the complexity of decisions in an organization, and the necessity of making ethical choices (not to choose is in fact to choose in this exercise). Which of these things you emphasize will depend on where you are in your class.

This is an excellent exercise to use to emphasize the importance of setting the appropriate moral climate in an organization. The ACM code of ethics is explicit about the responsibility of leaders in organizations to do this, and this is a case of a person who had that opportunity and turned it down.

Time required

In a small class, if student do the evaluation of options outside of class, you can spend 15 minutes of class discussion evaluating the standard options and listing the imaginative options student add to the list. If structured as a debate or as an introduction to the tests, the exercise can easily take up a class hour.

Introducing the exercise

It is important to be specific with students about what they should put in the cells of the evaluation matrix. They might simply give each action option a grade from A to F for each test, and keep some notes on the side about why. They might put a descriptive phrase in the cell like "will ruin reputation if caught."

Making and grading assignments

Students could be assigned to prepare a draft of a paper evaluating the options as a ticket into class, and share those drafts as the heart of the exercise. Revisions of the draft could be based on things learned from class discussion. The exercise does not require any written assignments and can simply be used as a classroom exercise.

As always, it is a good idea to have a grading rubric designed ahead of time for graded assignments. 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: each of the ethical tests to evaluate a decision, evaluation of the tests themselves, constructing new alternatives.


Links for the Instructor

ACM Code of Ethics

Possible difficulties

These tests are often difficult for students to use. They tend to conflate them into each other, and all of them into a simple outcomes based evaluation. The entire point of the tests is that there are multiple vantage points from which to view the decision, and so you will need to emphasize at the beginning, and throughout the group work and discussion the separate criteria for the tests. The criteria are mentioned on the evaluation form, but you will be better prepared to hold students to the criteria if you review the introduction we provide to the ethics tests.