CSE302: Professional Ethics for Computer Science
Fall 2009

Course Information

Instructor: Scott Stoller
Meeting Time and Place: Monday, 12:50pm-2:10pm, in Light Engineering 102
Office Hours: Monday, 11:00am-12:30pm, and Wednesday, 10:30am-noon, in Computer Science 1429. Also by appointment, and whenever I am in my office and not unusually busy.
Credits: 1


I use Blackboard to send email to the class, so make sure that your email address in Blackboard is up-to-date.

Course Description

This course is designed to familiarize students with professional practice in IT, and to enable them to identify ethical conflicts, identify their responsibilities and options, and think through the implications of possible solutions to ethical conflicts.

Course Goals

Students understand and can apply professional ethics.

  1. Students are aware of themselves as members of a profession, with shared community principles.
  2. Students are aware of the ethical implications of their professional choices, and of the communities (employer, customers, society at large) whose interests they serve.
  3. Students can apply ethical principles to resolve situations that arise in their professional lives.
  4. Students know of professional organizations that can help them deal with professional issues.


George Reynolds, Ethics in Information Technology. Thomson Course Technology, 2007. ISBN 13: 978-1-4188-3631-3. The book is available in the campus bookstore, on Amazon, etc.


Reading. Read the textbook chapters listed in the schedule below. Read each chapter before the class in which it will be covered.

Homework 1.

Term paper. Write a term paper on a topic related to professional ethics in computing, drawing on one of the case studies in the syllabus or personal experience. More information about possible topics appears in the Project Topics section below. If too many students select the same topic, I will ask some of them to select a different topic. The expected length is 1,600+ words. The term paper should include a bibliography that cites all sources used (see Integrity). The audience for your term paper and presentation is IT students and professionals. Do not include background material that they are likely to know, e.g., basics of P2P file sharing and browser cookies.

Presentation. Give a 10 minute in-class presentation on the topic of your term paper. I will try to remember to bring a timer to help you finish on time, but it is your responsibility to rehearse your presentation and check that it takes 10 minutes. Enforcement of the time limits is necessary to ensure that everyone scheduled to present gets an opportunity to do so.

Class Schedule

This is a tentative schedule for the lecture topics.

Textbook Reading Slides
Aug 31 Introduction Chapter 1 1-intro
Sep 14 Ethics for IT Professionals and Users Chapter 2 2-ethics-for-IT
Sep 21 Privacy Chapter 4 3-privacy
Sep 29 Intellectual Property Chapter 6 4-intellectual-property
Oct 5 Student presentations  

Oct 12 Student presentations  

Oct 19 Student presentations  

Oct 26 Student presentations

Nov 2 Student presentations

Nov 9 Student presentations

Nov 16 Student presentations

Nov 23 Student presentations

Nov 30 Student presentations

Dec 7 Student presentations

Last updated: 2 Sep 2009.


Sep 12: Student presentation schedule will be posted on this web page. Students whose presentations are near the beginning of the schedule should get started as soon as possible.

Sep 21: Term paper topic due. Submit a paragraph (or more) describing the topic on Blackboard by 5pm. Students whose presentations are near the beginning of schedule are encouraged to submit their topic earlier (in other words, you don't need to wait for the deadline) and notify me by email (since Blackboard does not notify me when assignments are submitted).

Oct 12: Homework 1 due. Submit on Blackboard by 5pm.

Nov 2: Draft of term paper due. The term paper should be at least half finished. Submit on Blackboard by 5pm.

Dec 7: Term paper due. Submit on Blackboard and submit a printout. The electronic copy and printout are both due by 5pm. Give the printout to the instructor in class, or slide it under his office door. If either the electronic copy or the printout is not submitted by the deadline, a lateness penalty will be incurred until both have been submitted.

Dec 7: Slides for presentation due. Submit on Blackboard by 5pm. (It's a good idea to submit the slides right after your presentation, but you can wait until this deadline if you want.) You do not need to submit a printout of your slides.

Last updated: 12 Sep 2009.

Grading Weights

Term paper
(including draft)
Presentation 30
Attendance 15
Homework 10
Total 100

Attendance has a significant weight in the CSE302 course grade because there are no homework assignments on most of the material covered in class, so I will determine whether students are learning that material mainly by in-class observation.

Grading of Term Paper

Grading of the term paper is based on

Grading of Presentation

Grading of the presentation is based on the items in the presentation evaluation form, as evaluated by the instructor. The numerical score for the presentation will be obtained as follows from the Overall rating on the instructor's presentation evaluation form.

--- 75
-- 80
- 85
avg 90
+ 95
++ 100
+++ 105

Presentations below the bottom end of this scale (e.g., extremely short or underprepared presentations) will be assigned numerical scores directly.

Students in the audience are also encouraged to fill out the presentation evaluation form. This does not affect anyone's grade (the presenter's or the evaluator's) but may serve two useful purposes: (1) provide the presenter with constructive criticism and other helpful feedback, and (2) help improve the evaluator's understanding and appreciation of the characteristics of good presentations. On days with student presentations, a pile of blank evaluation forms will be on a desk near the door. If you are interested in doing these evaluations, please take some when you enter (recall that 6 or 7 presentations are scheduled in each class). If you are not interested in doing these evaluations, please do not waste paper by filling out evaluation forms with nonsense.


Late Assignments. For everything except in-class presentations, the lateness penalty is 5% per day. For in-class presentations, the lateness penalty is 25% per week or fraction of a week. Make-up presentations may be given in a subsequent class (if time permits) or during my office hours. For example, if you are scheduled to give your presentation in the second timeslot on Monday, Oct 5, and you are not ready at that time, you may give the presentation during my office hours on the following Wednesday (Oct 7), or in class or during my office hours on the following Monday (Oct 12), with a 25% lateness penalty; if you miss those dates, you can give a make-up presentation on the following Wednesday (Oct 14) or Monday (Oct 19) with a 50% lateness penalty. Of course, extenuating circumstances (e.g., documented illness, LIRR breakdown) will be considered when determining whether a lateness penalty is appropriate.

Academic Integrity. In Fall 2006, the Undergraduate Council adopted the following statement and mandated that it be included in all undergraduate course syllabi. Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person's work as your own is always wrong. Any suspected instance of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Academic Judiciary. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at http://www.stonybrook.edu/uaa/academicjudiciary/

Disabilities. If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Disability Support Services, 128 ECC Building (631) 632-6748. They will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential. Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Support Services. For procedures and information go to the following web site: http://www.ehs.sunysb.edu and search Fire Safety and Evacuation and Disabilities.

Critical Incident Management. Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students' ability to learn.

Project Topics

Here are some possible topics and sources of topics for your term paper and class presentation. You may choose a topic not on the list (e.g., based on a personal experience).


Many of the course materials are based on materials developed by Amanda Stent, Scott Smolka, Klaus Mueller, and Jie Gao.