Panel hears CoSci students resolve ethical quandaries

Ethical quandaries were woven into a scenario presented to third-year construction science students at Texas A&M who where tasked with identifying and addressing the tricky predicaments in oral presentations before a panel of industry professionals.

In the scenario, a contractor met quietly with a school board president about building a new skills training center after the contractor’s firm had helped the school establish the training program; however, a historically underutilized business (HUB) eventually won the bid. Also, the contractor’s proposal suggested that students could receive on-the-job training by performing some of the work on project.

The scenario was further complicated when the contractor protested the contract's award to the HUB firm. To advance his case, the contractor met with the judge who would rule on the bid protest to discuss his reasoning. The state residency requirement for HUB certification was one of the issues to be weighed by the judge, whom the contractor had recently endorsed for re-election and also contributed funds for his campaign. There were other issues, as well, subtly tucked into the scenario that dealt with safety, and knowledge of applicable laws and regulations.

Students troubleshooting the ethical dilemmas, which were 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.

From the 13 student teams submitting solutions to the scenario, construction science faculty picked the five best teams to present their work to a panel of industry professionals.

The industry panel included:

  • Larry Fickel, senior project manager at MWH Constructors;
  • David Fleming, vice president of Sundt, which has a regional office in San Antonio, and
  • James Weiss of Lewis Realty Advisors.

The ethics team competition was very close, the jurors noted, with each team presenting an insightful analysis of the scenario. Two teams suggested changes to the wording of the AIC’s ethical standards that caught the interest of Fleming, who is an AIC member and chair of the AIC Constructor Certification Commission. He said he would share the teams’ suggestions at the next AIC national meeting.

The winning team — Elliot Patrick Fuller, Zachary Hladek, Richard Kloss and Christina Martinez — was ultimately chosen, said the jurors, for identifying the legal and safety risks associated with using underage students on the project.

posted April 25, 2012