Industry panel hears students troubleshoot ethical quandaries

Ethical quandaries surrounding a hypothetical bidding scenario were identified and resolved by third-year Texas A&M construction science students in recent presentations made before a panel of visiting industry professionals as part of a classroom competiton.

“The ethics competition is the first opportunity junior construction science students have to make oral presentations to industry members,” said George Eustace, senior construction science lecturer. “Texas A&M is the only school of construction science with this type of ethics competition.”

Students troubleshooting the scenario’s ethical dilemmas, developed from examples in the American Institute of Constructors’ Code of Ethics, were also asked to identify which AIC standard applied to each issue and to suggest recommendations or refinements to the AIC code.

Among the ethical issues students identified in the scenario involving the rebidding of construction contract was a general contractor’s attempt to submit a lower bid by using a concrete company — owned by a former long term employee — that hired independent contract workers instead of salaried employees with benefits and training. Also tagged as unethical, was a contractor’s bidding maneuverings after discovering a design error that would affect the project’s cost.

The competition began with 25 teams totaling 124 students submitting written reports on the scenario that were reviewed by Eustace, Melissa Daigenault, construction science lecturer, and Jim Smith, professor of construction science.

The faculty members chose the best five papers and invited the teams to provide oral presentations to an industry panel composed of Larry Fickel, senior project manager at MWH Constructors, David Fleming, vice president of Sundt, which has a regional office in San Antonio, and Gavin McGee, who practices construction law in Houston.

The student team of Daniel Groves, Marshall McBurnett, William Powell, Paul Shaw, Trevor Young won the presentation competition, while Sean O’Keefe was singled out by the panel as the best individual presenter.

Eustace said plans are under way to send a team of construction science students to make an ethics presentation at the fall 2013 Construction Industry Ethics and Compliance Initiative’s Best Practices Forum, an annual event where government and industry representatives share their approaches to current and emerging ethics and compliance issues.

Fleming, a veteran judge of the Texas A&M competition, has begun an effort to stage a nationwide construction science ethics competition patterned after Texas A&M’s contest.

posted October 26, 2012