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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Solar Falsifier

Jocelyn Tan

Jeremy is a fellow for his University’s Global Service fellowship program. In his role, he must work with an international non-profit organization, SolarSolver, to develop a portable solar panel kit for rural villages in Belize.

During a visit to the company’s headquarters, one of the organization’s representatives, Shiraine, asked Jeremy about using fellowship’s grant money to purchase items not readily available in Belize for SolarSolver. Since fellowship funds were obtained through a reimbursement process, she wanted Jeremy to falsify receipts from solar-kit related purposes to obtain the money.

Jeremy’s first instinct was that it would be unethical to use money intended for one purpose to fulfill another. However, he recalled Shiraine doing him several favors in the past. For instance, prior to his admittance into the fellowship, Jeremy had worked closely with Shiraine and other SolarSolver representatives to develop a proposal for his project. If it were not for her help (as well as her company’s help in sponsoring the project), Jeremy strongly believed that he would not have received the fellowship.

Another time, a power outage occurred while he was demonstrating the solar-kit’s operation and installment to local villagers. Jeremy tried calling SolarSolver’s headquarters, but it was already past sundown and nobody was in the office. Finally, he decided to call Shiraine’s house for help. To his relief, Shiraine answered and immediately sent a team with portable light generators to Jeremy’s rescue. Jeremy is grateful for Shiraine’s acts of kindness, but he does not believe that falsifying receipts is the right thing to do.

What should Jeremy do?

Jocelyn Tan was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

August 2015

Aug 26, 2015