First Year Preceptorial

Winter 2020

Moral & Ethical Dilemmas


Professor Dr. Ashraf Ghaly, P.E.
Department Engineering
Office Olin 102D
Tel., email 518-388-6515, ghalya@union.edu

Lectures: MWF 10:30-11:35AM, Olin 306. Click HERE for class presentation and course materials.


Life would be different from the way we know it if making decisions about issues we face in our daily living was as clear as black and white. A binary choice from two options, one of which is totally right and the other is completely wrong would be extremely easy. With many layers of complexities in our society today, limitless shades of gray are the themes of almost every human interaction. Problems faced by individuals may also have moral or ethical dimensions, which require deeper examination and careful dissection before passing a judgment. Moral and ethical dilemmas arise when reasonable people cannot agree on a singular solution or a sole outcome for a given problem. In such a case priorities have to be established and compromises have to be made to ameliorate the outcome of the dilemma. Students in this course will be introduced to many such scenarios through actual case studies. Class discussion and listening to various viewpoints will help students develop a sense of appreciation that would ultimately contribute to finding an acceptable resolution to the dilemma at hand.


Term Test (6th week) = 25%

Class Participation = 25%

Term Paper & Presentation = 25%

Final Examination = 25%

90+ = A 85+ = A(-) 80+ = B(+) 75+ = B 70+ = B(-) 65+ = C(+) 60+ = C 55+ = C(-) 50+ = D







1. Each student is to choose the paper subject they like to research. Students in this course have many interests, thus subjects that are closely or remotely related to a student's major are acceptable but the selected subjects must have a relationship with the course's major themes: moral and ethical dilemmas. Students may wish to address in their paper a case/problem of interest or work on a subject that has intrigued them but is not necessarily related to their major.
2. Students can select their subject at anytime during the term but no later than the 6th week of the term.
3. All papers must be on different subjects. A given subject can only be used by one student. A student that was the first in selecting a given subject would be the only one entitled to it. The earlier you select a subject, the wider the selection available to you.
4. You have the right to drop a subject you selected and select a different one as long as this is done no later than the 6th week of the term (provided that the new subject had not been previously taken by another student).
5. Once you settled on a subject, email the instructor a title for your paper and one sentence description of your intended subject. The instructor will post the titles and the one sentence description of all papers (without the names of students) on the course's website as soon as the email has been received. This will serve as reference of subjects already taken and have become unavailable.

Students may collect the information and materials pertaining to their chosen subject from any of the following sources (in no specific order): the Internet, technical publications, professional journals, magazines, textbooks, movies, documentaries, and all other credible sources including interviews with knowledgeable individuals.
Students are required to cite in their paper all the sources they used in their research. Any standard method of citation is acceptable. Internet sites are cited using the address (URL) of those sites. All other references are to be cited with the name of author, year, title of paper or book, page, and publisher.

The final electronic paper is due by noon of the Saturday that precedes the 10th week of the term. The paper should be a Word document named (firstname_lastname-paradox.docx), and not exceeding 10 pages of text (12-point double-spaced Times-type with one inch margin on all sides). In addition to the 10 pages of text, students may add pictures, tables, graphs, charts, figures, and any other supplementing materials as they see fit. The total length of the paper, however, may not exceed 20 pages.

Paper Grading Criteria
In their written papers and in their class presentation that will take place in the tenth week of the term, students are expected to highlight and detail their thought process and demostrate how they applied critical thinking to the addressed dilemma. The grade in this term paper will be assigned based on the quality and depth of thought, organization, and relevance of content to the subject under consideration, understanding, clarity of presentation, and demonstration of ability to address questions with comprehension.


  1. Students will develop an understanding that a very precious resource such as water has been and continues to be very paradoxical in the way humans use it.
  2. Students will learn that water has been the lifeline for ancient civilizations and is presently the fuel that propels modern economies. Life in its known form can only exist in the presence of water and all creatures need it for survival.
  3. Students will develop a fresh perspective regarding the paradox of the seemingly abundance of water and the scarcity of the same in the sense that over half of Plant Earth inhabitants do not have access to fresh water supplies.
  4. Students will appreciate the need to regulate the use of water and the importance of fair distribution to avoid conflicts and wars. History is rich with examples showing nations willing to go to war over water resources.
  5. Students will comprehend that as precious as it is, contaminated water can be an agent for water-borne disease.
  6. Students will get the opportunity to research as subject of interest related to water and document their findings in a term paper.

SUGGESTED REFERENCES (possible sources for additional reading)

Professor Ghaly Homepage Union College Homepage