Ethical Decision-Making

Guiding Questions

Gather the Facts

  • What are the important questions to ask?
  • What facts do we know as opposed to opinions we may hold?
  • Who may be more knowledgeable whom we can ask for more information?
  • What do current PSU policies and procedures have to say about this (University, college, campus, unit, student, academic, etc.)?
  • What legal obligations and rights are involved?
  • Are there any legal implications?

Determine the Ethical Issue

  • What personal or group biases may be impacting how I/we view this?
  • What words or ideas have multiple or different meanings for different people that we need to clarify (e.g., fairness, justice)?
  • What ethical values may be involved?
  • What moral feelings or judgments does this situation bring out of me or others?

Consider Ethical Principles, Responsibilities and Penn State Values

  • How does this situation relate to our Mission as a University?
  • What are the rights, duties, and ethical obligations of everyone involved?
  • Are there particular professional responsibilities or obligations that I must uphold?
  • What important or relevant relationships do we have that we must honor or consider?
  • What Penn State Values are relevant to this situation?
  • Do any Penn State Values conflict with each other? How do we resolve this?
  • What does our commitment to Penn State Values suggest we do?
  • How do our actions and possible decisions reflect Penn State Values?

Identify Those Impacted

  • Who will be directly impacted by our decision?
  • How may this situation and/or our decision impact others outside of the immediate situation?
  • Have we consulted with those who will be impacted by this?
  • Have we considered other diverse voices and alternative viewpoints?

Explore Possible Solutions and Actions

  • Think creatively about possibilities and ethical solutions
  • What strategies may prevent this issue in the future?
  • What are the potential consequences (intended and unintended) of each solutions?
  • How will the final decision be communicated and evaluated?
  • How does each possible solution:
    • Reflect the Mission of the University
    • Embody Penn State Values?
    • Model the actions of an ethical leader?
    • Establish a precedent for future situations?
    • Impact all parties involved?
    • Address the moral feelings and judgments we had?
Pentagram with Ethical Action at the center.