Like most students at Arizona University, Ahmed was a student and spent twenty hours each week working at the university library. He liked the library because it was quiet and he could study some of the time. One interesting aspect of the library was the access to incredible databases, some of which were only for the professors. As a student worker he was privy to all the database codes, and soon discovered large amounts of materials for almost every class on campus. Bill, one of Ahmed’s fellow library student workers, was constantly talking about doing weird stunts and antics to put on YouTube. He was a nice person to be around but sometimes he was a little overbearing. One evening when Ahmed started work, Bill was talking about the many ways to download pirated music, movies, and books from the library’s system. “It is very easy and untraceable. I just route my requests to a professor’s IP address, then send it to several other faculty IP addresses so it is difficult to trace. I then go to one of the library computers, log in as someone else, put in a CD or Blu-Ray DVD, and burn what I want. The people’s computers I route through get a message that someone logged into their account, but the IT guys just tell them it’s no big deal and it happens all the time. IT never really looks into it because of the many systems and IP addresses on campus. Do you want me to get you any movies or CDs?” Ahmed politely refused, knowing full well this could get a person expelled from the university. Several months passed and Bill became more popular. Every day someone stopped by the library desk where he worked and talked to Bill. The person walked to one of the library’s computers, stuck in a disk, and several minutes later was gone. Ahmed looked at Bill and shook his head. Bill responded with a smile. One day, Ahmed found an envelope with his name on it when he went to his usual desk. When he opened it, there was five hundred dollars with a note saying, “Enjoy.” He started to ask people about the money, but then saw Bill smiling. At that moment, Ahmed knew the money was from Bill. He tried to give it back, but Bill refused to take it or admit he had given it to Ahmed in the first place. Ahmed became increasingly uncomfortable with Bill’s behavior. He knew what Bill did was wrong and possibly illegal. He didn’t want to be involved with it in any way, but he also didn’t want to become a snitch. Now he was receiving money for his involvement. Ahmed felt the situation was escalating and he should say something to his supervisor before something really bad happened, but he didn’t want to be the one to get Bill in trouble. Ahmed knew Bill could be expelled for something like this, which could potentially damage his entire future. Then again, Ahmed had his own future to worry about. Could he be expelled just for knowing what kind of activities Bill was involved in? What should he do with the money Bill gave him? What might happen if he doesn’t blow the whistle?
QUESTIONS | EXERCISES
1. Describe the stakeholders involved in this ethical dilemma. What stake do they have in the situation? 2. Are Bill’s actions an ethical issue, a legal issue, or both? Explain your reasoning.
3. What are some of the risks Ahmed faces if he becomes a whistleblower? What are the risks if he remains silent?