3rd Annual Sidney and Anne Braudy and Louis and Edith Manker Workshop on Engineering Management Ethics held on Oct. 21, 2011

The 2011 Sidney and Ann Braudy and Louis and Edith Manker Workshop on Engineering Management Ethics was held on Oct. 21 in McManus Lounge in Hollister Hall. Facilitators for the workshop included Prof. Ron Kline, Director of the Bovay Program in Engineering Ethics at Cornell, Prof. Brad Wendel, Cornell Law School, Dr. Dana Radcliffe, Johnson School of Management, Al Center, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineerng, Carol Grumbach, Program on Ethics and Public Life at Cornell, John Belina, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Dr. Park Doing, Bovay Program in Engineering Ethics at Cornell, and also Dr. Bob Braudy (’65, ’66) and Judi Braudy.  Students attending the workshop included seniors and M. Eng. Students from Mechanical and Aerospace

Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Engineering Management, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Operations Research and Information Engineering, Materials Science, Biomedical Engineering, and Engineering Physics as well as Ph. D. students from Natural Resources and the Department of Science and Technology Studies and also students from Cornell Law School and the Johnson School of Management.

The workshop began with opening remarks from Prof. Kline and an opening talk by Prof. Brad Wendel of the Law School.  Prof. Wendel asserted that ethics in the management of technical projects went beyond strict adherence to liability, an area in which he has worked, in the legal sense and that engineers and managers had a duty to judge for themselves how their professional decisions affected the “health, welfare, and safety” of the public, and act accordingly. This was followed by a viewing of “The Incident at Morales”, a hypothetical case of an industrial accident at a chemical engineering plant, stopped just before the outcome of the case ‘occurred’.  After the viewing, the workshop broke into small groups where issues of safety culture, accountability, environmental impact, organizational mission drift, reasonable and unreasonable expectations of engineering by management, the relationship between engineering and operations, and leadership (among other areas) were discussed with respect to the case.

After these small group discussions, the case was played to it’s conclusion, in which an explosion occurs at the plant and a plant operator dies, and the entire group convened for a discussion mediated by Dr. Park Doing.  In addition to Prof. Wendel’s insights from his experiences in the legal arena, the workshop was fortunate to have Al Center from the Chemical Engineering department participate, since he has been involved in the design of many chemical plants and teaches the capstone design course in Chemical Engineering where students design a chemical engineering plant.  In the large group discussion, Al pointed out aspects of the relationship between the protagonist, a design engineer, and the company that employed him in the movie that had subtly passed by in previous workshops.  With hi experience in such matters, Al pointed out that the language used in the movie pointed to a contractual relationship between the engineer and the company, rather than one of a salaried employee.  This led to discussion among the group about the different kinds of accountability involved in each relationship – a new aspect for the workshop.

As in previous years, students enjoyed the opportunity to interact with faculty members in an informal setting where they were all participating in an exercise, and this year the range of expertise brought to bear by the facilitators was the most diverse yet.  In fact, the facilitators involved this year all enthusiastically agreed to pursue more longstanding and formal institutional interactions between the Engineering College, the Law School, The Johnson School of Management, and the Arts and Sciences College around the topic of ethics. The Bovay Program is looking into hosting a joint seminar series in this regard for the 2012-2013 academic year and also forming a working group to foster the connections between these different ethics program on campus.  This year’s Braudy Workshop was a great inspiration and impetus in that regard!  Thanks to everyone who participated!

2011 Braudy Workshop