Model for ethical decision making part of the Penn State Values

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Each of us at Penn State makes many decisions every day. We can become so accustomed to making decisions, that we sometimes do so automatically.

However, it is important to step back and consider the decisions that we are making for several reasons. First, what are the potential unintended consequences of our actions?  Who will be affected by our decision? Have we considered and involved all necessary parties in our decision-making? It is also helpful to stop and consider what our obligations are, both to the University and ethically, when making decisions. Other times we may not know what the best option in a particular situation may be. This could be due to the complicated nature of the issues involved, conflicting goals or values, or the potential impact on different individuals or groups of people.

The Penn State Ethical Decision-Making Model was developed to help faculty, staff and students make difficult decisions. It is designed to encourage us to pause and think about the implications and consequences for decisions that we make on a daily basis.

The model is based on the Penn State Values and was developed by the University Ethics Committee in conjunction with the Rock Ethics Institute. Its design is based upon decision-making models that are prevalent not only in industry, but also in ethics education for undergraduates and graduate students. After pilot testing with students and employees, it was reviewed by the University administration, president’s council and the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Legal and Compliance. While the use of the model is not obligatory, all Penn Staters are encouraged to use it. 

Accompanying the model is a set of guiding questions to encourage exploration of each of the five elements to consider when making an important decision. The model and guiding questions, as well as examples and suggestions on how the model may be used, are available on the Penn State Values website. The Penn State Ethical Decision-Making model has been incorporated into Office of Human Resources certificate programs for supervisors and managers. In the future, additional educational opportunities for faculty, staff and students will be provided for using and applying the model.

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Last Updated May 19, 2016