In response to Tompkins email, the class came up with a few ideas collectively. We decided that we need more information, because we would have to make a decision depending on the following factors: Seriousness of the situation, whether the “background source” has tried to rock the boat previously, verification of the information, speaking truth to power, and automatic responsibility.
First off, we need to know how serious the situation was. How many lives were lost, if any? Were lives damaged emotionally or professionally? Was there damage to the project as a whole? If there was not a huge amount of damage done, then perhaps the whistle should be blown on something a little more serious.
The next question to ask is this: Has this “background source” tried to rock the boat before? If he or she has, then it makes sense to then talk to someone about it. But if not, we think the best strategy would be to advise the source to rock the boat or whistle blow because they have the most information and are the most directly involved with the situation.
Tompkins should also verify that the information is correct. If the background source is not telling the truth, it could affect Tompkins credibility if he were to act upon this person’s word without confirming the information first.
Next, we have to relate this decision to Tompkins book. According to his book, you should speak truth to power, regardless of the situation. He said himself, “In the end, however, it is the individual who must be upright, who must stand up against the system when it violates the ultimate values. The system cannot save itself.” With that said, we have to ask, if he wrote this, then why even ask? Is this a mere test?
Lastly, we have to question whether Tompkins has considered this part of automatic responsibility. Though he is not affiliated with NASA now, it is very possible that he still feels a strong connection to the organization. Automatic responsibility requires that a person follow through with something that is off point, even if it is not in their area of expertise. If Tompkins considers this to be automatic responsibility, then by all means, say something. The only argument against this would be the question, “Is it really your responsibility?”
Hope this was helpful!