situation. All that can be done in the near term is to focus on evacuation plans, he said.

Dr. Daniel concluded with a reminder that the audience should consider which aspects of ethics and social justice should be taught in college classes and which should be taught in continuing education. Given the time constraints in undergraduate engineering education, this is an important issue.


Eric Pappas, school of engineering at James Madison University, noted that the communications and design program at his school is an example of a program that crosses disciplinary boundaries. It includes creative thinking, aesthetics, and ethics, among other topics.

The audience then turned quickly to an intense discussion of the meaning of “social justice.” Some argued that social justice is a political concept, others that it has religious connotations; some considered relative risk in relationship to social justice, arguing that the most vulnerable among us are often exposed to disproportionately greater risk. Still others said they considered ecological sustainability a social justice issue. Many agreed that technical knowledge is essential to understanding the social and ethical parameters of choices, whether the choices relate to transportation or fisheries or any other social activity. Engineers, they argued, should be involved in educating the public about engineering and social justice issues, but they questioned whether their education enabled them to assume that role (although one said that the Tufts program was an exemplar of how this could be done). Participants disagreed about how well engineering societies are educating the public, and even about whether engineering societies should be speaking with one voice about ethical matters.

The group also discussed whether engineering educators realize that most students do not pursue academic careers and whether they should be preparing students to deal with ethical issues that arise in non academic environments. Dr. Passino had the last word on this subject. Since only about 15 percent of engineering undergraduates at Ohio State go on to graduate school, he said, he designed a less theoretical course that focuses on issues like safety and risk in manufacturing, a situation to which many students will actually be exposed. He ended with a plea for a grassroots push for strengthening corporate citizenship programs, which could raise the status of the profession.

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