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Engl 402 -Technical Communication – Ethics in Practice Part 1 Rosemary Glennon is an Environmental Engineer for Rosebud Manufacturing, one of several local plants whose water discharges flow into Lake Conlan, a major lake in a flourishing tourist area. Included in Rosemary’s responsibilities is the monitoring of water and air discharges at this plant and the periodic preparation of reports to be submitted to the department of Natural Resources. Rosemary has just prepared a report that indicates that the level of pollution in the plant’s water discharges slightly exceeds the legal limitations. However, there is little reason to believe that this small amount poses any danger to people in the Lake Conlan area; at worst they believe it may endanger a small number of fish. On the other hand, solving the problem will cost the plant more than $400,000. Rosemary’s supervisor, Plant Manager Matt Moore, says the excess should be regarded as a mere “technicality,” and he asks Rosemary to “adjust” the data so that the plant appears to be in compliance. He explains: “We can’t afford the $400,000. It might even costs a few jobs. No doubt it would set us behind our competitors. Besides the bad publicity we’d get, it might scare off some of the tourist industry, making it worse for everybody.” How do you think Rosemary should respond to Matt’s request? Rosemary is an engineer and Matt is an accountant by degree, but a manager in practice. Answer these questions: 1. Does the Checklist on page 110 of CG help you make a decision? 2. Are there any professional ethics codes that will help Rosemary make a deicion and then present it to Matt? Part 2 A. No doubt many people in the area besides Rosemary Glennon and Matt Moore have an important stake in how Rosemary responds to Matt’s request. How many kinds of people who have a stake in this can you think of? B. Gary Randall works for the Department of Natural Resources. One of his major responsibilities is to evaluate periodic water and air discharge reports from local industry to see if they are in compliance with antipollution requirements. Do you think Gary would agree with the Plant Manager’s idea that the excess should be regarded as a “mere technicality”? Assume that Gary is a professional, experienced DNR employee with a degree in biology. C. Kristen Schaefer is a technical writer who works for the Chamber of Commerce designing and writing tourism materials for the Lake Conlan area. The brochures typically promote the “crystal clear waters of Lake Conlan,” and the great fisheries of the lake. Because she is married to Matt Moore, she knows about the issue the plant is facing. What should she do? She has a degree in Technical Communication and is an active member of the Society for Technical Communicators. Should she write the brochures and websites as usual? D. Consider the situation of local parents of children who swim in the lake. Would they agree that the exces is a “mere technicality”? Do interested parties, such as parents, have any code of ethics upon which to draw? Do any of the ethical ideas in Chapter 6 help you with this consideration? E. You manage a tourist hotel on the banks of the lake, and your hotel has a weekly fish fry featuring fresh fish caught in the lake. Do you have a stake in what Rosebud Manufacturing puts into the lake? If you found out about the excessive discharge, would you let your guests know? What kind of ethics code would guide your decision? F. A basic ethical principle is, “Whatever is right (or wrong) for one person is right (or wrong) for any relevantly similar persons in a relevantly similar situation.” This is called the principle of universalizability. Suppose there are several plants in the area whose emissions are, like Rosebud Manufacturing’s, slightly in excess of the legal limitations. According to the principle, if it is right for Rosemary to submit an inaccurate report, it is right for all the other plants’ engineers to do likewise (and for their plant managers to ask them to do so). What if all the plants submitted reports like the one Matt wants Rosemary to submit? To conclude: Now that you have looked at the above situation from a number of different perspectives, has your view of what Rosemary should do changed? Why or why not?
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