1 Integrating Ethics into the Public Administration Curriculum: A Three-Step Process John R. Walton; James M. Stearns; Charles T. Crespy Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 16, No. 3, Special Issue: The New Public Management in New Zealand and beyond. (Summer, 1997), pp Journal of Policy Analysis and Management is currently published by John Wiley & Sons. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. The JSTOR Archive is a trusted digital repository providing for long-term preservation and access to leading academic journals and scholarly literature from around the world. The Archive is supported by libraries, scholarly societies, publishers, and foundations. It is an initiative of JSTOR, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to help the scholarly community take advantage of advances in technology. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact Fri Oct 12 18:22:
2 Curriculum and Case Notes Robert A. Leone Michael O'Hare Coeditors Submissions to Curriculum and Case Notes should be sent to Robert A. Leone, School of Management, Boston University, Boston, MA INTEGRATING ETHICS INTO THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION CURRICULUM: A THREE-STEP PROCESS John R. Walton James M. Stearns Charles T. Crespy Abstract This article provides a three-step process for analyzing public policy dilemmas with ethical implications. A framework is proposed that builds on existing ethics theories and attempts to provide a relevant, usable approach for decisionmaking. A review of current thought in ethics indicates a concern for two areas: (a) responsibilities to relevant constituencies; and (b) adherence to moral obligations. The framework presented herein directly addresses both of these areas of concern. The authors have found this approach to be useful for classroom applications. This process is simple to explain, understand, and apply to a range of administrative situations. Students find the framework a memorable tool, useful in structuring deliberations with ethical implications. Sample applications of the framework provide examples for educators interested in integrating ethics into their advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. Introduction Schools of public affairs and public administration are coming under increasing pressure to integrate discussions of ethics into their curricula. Just how to best accomplish this has been the subject of considerable controversy. This article describes an analytic approach one of the authors has used to integrate an ethical perspective into a graduate policy analysis course. This experience Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Vol. 16, No. 3, (1997) O 1997 b the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Publishediby John Wiley & Sons, Inc. CCC /
3 Curriculum and Case Notes / 47 1 demonstrated that when this approach is used early in the course, subsequent discussions are enriched because students acquire skills and insights which allow them to identify, evaluate, and articulate different ethical viewpoints and perspectives. Our assumption is that students will need to be able to deal with new ethical challenges that may require analysis, and to do so in an environment in which everyone may not be reasoning (or asserting) from the same ethical model. Background Interest in administrative ethics can be explained in part by the fact that administrators are confronted almost daily with a variety of ethical dilemmas. Although contributions from academic circles include a host of normative and descriptive ethics models, the actual use and application of these models has been modest at best. Robin and Reidenbach [I9871 conclude that, "What is needed, but has not been forthcoming from these analyses, is a useful, comprehensive, decision-oriented framework to aid... in thinking about the different ethical dilemmas" (p. 3). Bergenson [I9921 similarly concluded that a review of the progress in the field of administrative ethics revealed a disjointed body of literature in need of a cohesive and coherent framework for analysis. The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) accreditation guidelines emphasize the need for core curricula to impart the "skills to act ethically and effectively..." [NASPAA, 1992, p. 31. From a national survey of graduate schools of public administration, Cleary [I9901 identified ethics as the largest curricular gap, save for concerns for nonprofit management (p. 30). Cleary's findings and a belief in the importance of ethics in public administration are supported by others [Bowman, 1990, ;Burton, 1990; Frederickson, 1990, 1994; Lee and Paddock, 1992; Marini, 1992; Menson, 1990; Van Wart, Notwithstanding these laments and the NASPAA directives for more emphasis on ethics in curricula, Hejka-Ekins [I9881 concluded: "In the teaching of public service ethics, vacillation is evident between a stated commitment and actual educational practices" (p. 885). Although there is general agreement about the importance of ethics instruction in the curriculum, the majority of programs have not developed specific ethics courses. The only alternative to a stand-alone course is the integration of ethics into courses such as Policy Analysis. Effective integration into coursework requires accomplishing the three most important goals of ethics education as identified by public administration educators themselves: 1. To develop an awareness of ethical issues and problems in the field. 2. To build analytical skills in decisionmaking. 3. To cultivate an attitude of moral obligation and personal responsibility in pursuing a career in the public service. (Hejka-Ekins, 1988, p. 887) The authors' experience with ethics education is strikingly similar. Students gain most from experiences that: (a) are based on an understanding of the diverse perspectives of moral philosophers (Hejka-Ekins's "awareness of ethical issues"); (b) frame the ethical dilemma in a model that allows discussion from diverse perspectives (Hejka-Ekins's "build analytical skills in decision making"); and (c) provide a vehicle for playing out the conflicts that arise so that students can measure the extent to which they have fulfilled the manifold
4 472 / Curriculum and Case Notes and conflicting moral obligations they have identified (Hejka-Ekins's "cultivate an attitude of moral obligation in... public service"). Thus, successful classroom exercises require a framework that is grounded in theory, yet easy to understand and use. The purpose of this article is to describe the development and use of one such analytic method that can be applied in policy analysis courses. This approach to ethics education is summarized in the three steps that follow. The rationale for this sequence is rooted in a progressive exposure to the complexities of ethical analysis. The framework offered in Step 2 presents a tool one can use in Step 3 to thoughtfully analyze ethical dilemmas. Step 1: Understanding the Basics of Moral Philosophy Understanding how great thinkers define ethical behavior is central to the exercise presented here. A summary reading assignment and a brief discussion can provide this foundation. Ethical theories are neither easily nor consistently applied to real-life situations. As a consequence, different theories of ethics may imply different actions in a given situation. Some theories are based on the consequences of one's actions [see John Stuart Mill, 1861, and teleology] while others are predicated on the original intent of one's actions [see John Rawls, 1971, and deontology]. For example, a Rawlsian approach might indicate that a certain action was ethical, while a Millian approach may present a contradictory view. Understanding diverse frames of reference is essential for a meaningful discussion of administrative ethics. To handle ethical dilemmas effectively, students must understand that utilitarians must project outcomes and assess the ethicality of actions based on a priol-i estimations of outcomes, whereas a deontologist must judge actions based on the intent of the actors regardless of the outcomes of the actions. At a minimum students should understand these theories in order to provide a vocabulary and a sense of ethical reasoning for subsequent discussions. The Appendix provides a thumbnail sketch of three distinct frames of reference or "schools of thought" and can be used as a summative device for the discussion of the readings suggested. In the interest of parsimony, the Appendix is intended to be illustrative rather than comprehensive. The reader is directed to Gandz and Hayes [I9881 and Rachaels [I9861 for a more thorough and balanced treatment of the topic. Either of these readings makes an excellent assignment to precede the presentation of Step 2. Step 2: Framing the Ethical Problem: The Obligations by Parties Matrii Obligotions Over half a century ago, ethicist William Ross [I9301 identified, among others, three duties that constitute moral obligations which he saw as universal and self-evident. Interpreted for the field of public administration, these duties apply to a variety of constituent groups and include the obligations listed in Table 1. Similarly, Lewis [I9911 provides a comprehensive and practical approach to administrative ethics that describes ethical issues in public service, demonstrates how theory can be applied to develop decisionmaking methods and tools, and concludes with a discussion of how these methods and tools can be used to create a more ethical public agency. Although her work is not easily
5 Cumculurn and Case Notes / 473 Table 1. Obligations of the public administrator. Obligation Explanation Do no harm Cause no pain or suffering or loss to others Improvement Improve the condition of the relevant constituency Equitylfairness Treat all groups and individuals fairly; tell the truth; keep promises applied within existing courses, her discussions of deontological theory and the stakeholder concept are particularly relevant examples for illustrating the development of the framework described in this article.' Here the terms "parties" and "stakeholders" are used synonomously. Unlike philosophies of teleology and cultural relativism, Lewis focuses on deontological theory, emphasizing the responsibilities and obligations of the decisionmaker, not the morality or immorality of the outcomes of those decisions. This approach has become an emergent theoretical perspective in public administration although by no means the only one [see Brady and Woller, Guy , Lewis and Catron , and the seminal work of Lewis [I9911 have elaborated lists of or identified moral obligations of decisionmakers. Combining and interpreting these lists only lends further support for the early, creative work of Ross. Another significant contribution of Lewis [I9911 is the inclusion of stakeholders [similar to Freeman, A stakeholder is a "significant player in ethical dilemmas" [Lewis, 1991, p Stakeholders may be: 1. Internal: the organization or agency... superiors, employees, and decision maker. 2. External and direct: clients and suppliers, lawmakers, taxpayers, and community residents and businesses. 3. External and indirect: those keyed to general interests... citizens and society, other jurisdictions, the private sector, and future generations. (Lewis, 199 1,p. 121) The Obligations by Parties (OBP) Matrix This summary of current thought in both public and private sector ethics indicates that two concerns are important: (a) an awareness on the part of the decisionmaker of the responsibilities to relevant constituent groups; and (b) an adherence by the decisionmaker to moral obligations. The framework to be presented here directly addresses both of these concerns. This framework is less esoteric than most models in the literature and, as such, may be more useful to the practicing public manager and easier for students to understand and apply. I An earlier iteration of the Obligations by Parties (OBP) matrix was originally presented by the authors in The Integration of Ethics into the Marketing Cum'culurn: An Educator's Guide [Bol et al., 1991, chap. 21. A detailed review of other frameworks from the literature, as well as corporate guidelines in practice, are summarized therein. Although the original iteration takes on a different form, its review may provide additional insight for the interested reader.
6 474 / Cumculurn and Case Notes Internal Superiors Employees Self External and direct Clients Suppliers Lawmakers Taxpayers Residents Businesses External and indirect Society Other jurisdictions Future generations Do no hann Improvement Equityifairness Figure 1. The obligations by parties (OBP) matrix. For a defined decisionmaking situation the OBP matrix focuses the administrator's ethical analysis by asking the general question: "What is owed to whom in this situation?" Ethical behavior for the administrator is defined as meeting moral obligations to parties affected by the decision. The decisionmaker must consider each specific cell created by the intersection of the obligation and party (stakeholder) and document what is necessary to meet that obligation to that party. Once this process is complete, the administrator must assess the degree to which these norms have or have not been met for each decision alternative. Although the obligations are universal, each decision situation may result in a different set of obligations and relevant parties. Figure 1 presents a comprehensive example of the formulation of the OBP matrix. Step 3: Application of the OBP Matrii For classroom applications, students should proceed through the matrix and make cell-by-cell judgments as to whether the specific obligation has been met for each constituent group. Any cell not applicable to the situation under consideration should be ignored. When this process is complete, several "problem cells" may have been identified. A problem cell is one in which one or more specific duties have not been met or where duties to constituencies are in conflict. The entire matrix should be inspected for each alternative and all problem cells should be identified. Problem cells are then prioritized and activities to eliminate the highest priority problem cell should be considered. The administrator should continue this process until all problem cells have been eliminated or until conflicts between problem cells preclude this possibility. The process concludes with an ethical judgment for each alternative. This entire process is summarized in Table 2.
7 Cumculum and Case Notes / 475 Table 2. The obligations by parties method. 1. Structure the matrix by determining the relevant parties and obligations for the decisionmaking situation in question. 2. For each cell of the matrix, specify the administrative behaviors that will meet the obligation to the party in question. This is the normative matrix. 3. For each alternative, identify the problem cells by comparing what has actually been done to the normative matrix. 4. Prioritize all problem cells and consider additional actions as appropriate. 5. Make an ethical judgment about each alternative. Classroom Applications The matrix can be a powerful classroom learning tool. It allows students to visualize the full range of obligations they have in a given administrative situation. The need to set priorities makes trade-offs among these obligations apparent. Differences in points of view will provide for interesting and fruitful class discussion. The need to take concrete actions to meet the most important obligations should be emphasized. Individual students or administrators will perceive obligations and actions differently. This results in disparate priorities among class members or across the organization and fosters intense discussion about what should be done. The proposed framework does not identify a single course of action that is most appropriate; clearly, that is not its purpose. Rather, the purpose is to encourage individual students or administrators to approach the decision from diverse perspectives and confront such questions as: "Is this obligation to this group so significant that administrative action is required?" or "Is this obligation to this group so significant that it takes precedence over obligations to other groups?" The authors have found this approach to be very useful. It is simple to explain, understand, and apply to administrative situations. Most important, students or administrators leave the encounter with a memorable tool that may be useful to them in future decisionmaking situations for two reasons: (a) it helps the decisionmaker to understand the diverse perspectives individuals may bring to the dilemma; and (b) it helps clarify imperatives for ethical action. Clossroom Applicotion: A Profession01 Dilemma After students are exposed to the basics of moral philosophy, ethical theories, and how to structure situations using the OBP matrix, the instructor can present decision problems with ethical dimensions. One classroom approach would have students choose or be assigned an ethical dilemma. Table 2 presents the sequence of activities for applying the OBP matrix in such a situation. For example, suppose an administrator (student) is wrestling with whether to leak a document she has inadvertently come upon. The decisionmaker is conflicted because allowing the leak would significantly improve the probability that a "good law would pass. The matrix forces the student to consider all stakeholders. Students must weigh context and ask questions like: Is the law really good for every relevant constituency? Will any parties be harmed? Are all being
8 476 1Curriculum and Case Notes treated fairly? Would the profession of public administration or the employing agency be harmed iflwhen knowledge of the decision to leak were made public? This type of analysis will broaden students' thinking and inevitably identify some "problem cells" (Stage 3 in Table 2). Students must then prioritize problem cells and make ethical judgments about alternatives, in this case whether to leak or not leak the information. Use of the matrix does not eliminate the need to make difficult ethical judgments. It does however, force the student or administrator to be thorough about relevant stakeholders and salient obligations in a given situation. Classroom Application: Case Analysis A case can provide an application of the OBP matrix in a more complex decisionmaking situation. The case chosen for this illustrative analysis is "Finances and Development" by Bradford J. Townsend [I9961 in the popular International CityICounty Management Association (ICMA) Municipal Management Series, Managing Local Government Finance: Cases in Decision Making. The case is summarized as follows. The process outlined in Table 2 is then applied to the case situation. Case summaq. The case is set in the village of Oakwood. Three years earlier, two manufacturing facilities had closed. John Wendall was elected mayor with a campaign to lower taxes and increase jobs by attracting new business and aggressively expanding village boundaries. The former police chief was appointed village manager, and Frank Schmidt, a professionally trained administrator, was appointed economic development director to accomplish these objectives. The new village manager performed poorly, and retired in less than a year leaving a large deficit. Schmidt was named acting manager, while Dan LeBlanc, another experienced administrator, was hired to improve village finances and promote economic development. LeBlanc made significant improvements in both areas. The budget deficit was eliminated and three large development projects were identified. LeBlanc and his staff made significant progress in bringing two of the projects to a successful conclusion. The third project, however, raised a boundary dispute with Petersville, a larger city to the north. The Oakwood Board of Trustees requested that Schmidt and LeBlanc study the boundary issue. As a result, Schmidt and LeBlanc proposed a boundary that was favorable to Oakwood and provided cost-benefit analyses to support their plan. The initial negotiations between mayors, attorneys, and managers of both municipalities resulted in only minor modifications to this boundary. At this point Mayor Wendall changed Oakwood's negotiation strategy. For the final round of negotiations, only the mayors and attorneys would be involved. These negotiations produced an annexation plan that substantially reduced land available to Oakwood. LeBlanc's cost-benefit analysis of this new plan indicated that it was much less favorable to Oakwood than the original boundary proposal. LeBlanc shared his concerns about the new plan privately with Mayor Wendall and the board of trustees. Notwithstanding LeBlanc's concerns, Mayor Wendall will ask the board of trustees for formal approval of his plan at a public meeting in a few hours. LeBlanc will attend the meeting, and Wendall has told LeBlanc that he should speak in favor of the mayor's plan at the meeting or "shut up." As he prepares for the meeting, the case concludes with four courses of action available to
9 Curriculum and Case Notes / 477 LeBlanc: 1. Present the cost-benefit results for both proposals in a matter-of-fact manner. 2. Revise assumptions in the cost-benefit analysis of the mayor's plan to improve the results. 3. Take the mayor's advice and shut up and let Schmidt or others present the staff position. 4. Present the cost-benefit results for both proposals without modification and express concern about the mayor's plan. OBP analysis.the first step in the analytic process (see Table 2) is to structure the OBP matrix. For this illustrative application, the obligations will be: do no harm, improvement, and equitylfairness (as previously defined). The relevant parties would be Mayor Wendall, the Oakwood Board of Trustees, Village Manager Schmidt, LeBlanc himself, the taxpayers of Oakwood, and future generations of Oakwood citizens. The second step is to create the normative matrix by specifying the administrative behaviors that are necessary to meet these obligations for each party. Table 3 is a completed normative matrix for LeBlanc's decision situation, as it might develop in a class discussion. Alternatively, students might each be asked to fill out the matrix as preparation for class. An aggregationlreconciliation of different cell contents might make for a more focused discussion. The matrix is then used as a basis for discussion assessing each of the four alternatives. For the first alternative (present cost-benefit results for both proposals in a matter-of-fact manner at the meeting), LeBlanc has met all obligations to the mayor, the board, and the village manager. He has not, however, met all obligations to the taxpayers of Oakwood, or future residents of the village. With this option he would not warn taxpayers about possible negative consequences (do no harm), nor would he provide truthful and complete information to them (equitylfairness). Furthermore, there is a real risk that areas of expansion will not be preserved for future generations (improvement). These are high-priority problem cells that will require resolution before a decision can be made. The second alternative (revise assumptions in the cost-benefit analysis of the mayor's plan to improve the results) in effect "cooks the books" in favor of the mayor's plan to improve the results. This is perhaps the easiest option to evaluate ethically because virtually every cell in the matrix becomes a problem cell. To resolve all of the problem cells is not possible for this alternative. The third alternative (take the mayor's advice and shut up and let Schmidt or others present the staff position) in effect "passes the buck" to others, especially Schmidt. This action does not demonstrate loyalty to his superior and colleague, Schmidt (equitylfairness), nor does it show professional support (improvement). Furthermore, the same problem cells identified for the first alternative would emerge given that obligations to taxpayers (do not harm and equitylfairness) and future generations (improvement) would not be met by him. Schmidt, or others, may do the right thing, but it is the morality of LeBlanc's behavior that is at issue here. As with the first alternative, these problem cells would require resolution. The final alternative (present the cost-benefit results for both proposals without modification and express concern about the mayor's plan) is the most
10 478 / Curriculum and Case Notes Table 3. Illustrative normative matrix. Do no harm Improvement Equityifairness Mayor Wendall Inform and warn of possible negative consequences Refrain from public criticism Provide objective and accurate information for decisionmaking Provide best professional judgment for a range of policy options Show respect for person and office Be honest in all dealings Show loyalty to person and office Oakwood Board of Trustees Inform and warn of possible negative consequences Minimize public criticism of board Respond to requests for information in a timely fashion Provide objective and accurate information for decisionmaking Provide best professional judgment Show respect for all members Be honest in all dealings Show loyalty to all members Village Manager Schmidt Himself (LeBlanc) Taxpayers of Oakwood Future generations Inform and warn of possible negative consequences Maintain good relationships with superiors Inform and warn taxpayers of possible negative consequences of pending issues Seek support from appropriate public and nonpublic sources Provide objective and accurate information Provide best professional judgment Provide professional support as needed Meetiexceed performance expectations of superiors Meetiexceedall relevant professional norms Upgradeiexpand professional capabilities Provide for efficient financing of necessary services Protectiexpand current tax base Provide employment opportunities Preserve areas for future expansion Protect long-term tax base Show loyalty to his superior Show loyalty to his colleague Keep informed about situation Be aware of other professional opportunities Provide truthful and complete information Build community interest in resource conservation
11 Curriculum and Case Notes / 479 morally acceptable alternative. There are, however, problem cells for this alternative. It could be argued that this alternative does not show loyalty to the mayor (equitylfairness), and that this action will not necessarily minimize public criticism of the board (do not harm). Notwithstanding these problem cells, virtually all other obligations have been met to all remaining parties. Furthermore, the resolution of these problem cells would create many additional and, arguably, more important problem cells. The analysis suggests the following ranking of the alternatives in terms of their ethical acceptability: 1. Present the cost-benefit results for both proposals without modification and express concern about the mayor's plan. 2. Present the cost-benefit results for both proposals in a matter-of-fact manner. 3. Take the mayor's advice and shut up and let Schmidt or others present the staff position. 4. Revise the assumptions in the cost-benefit analysis of the mayor's plan to improve the results. The classroom instructor should not expect all students to agree with this ranking. The students' judgment will be affected by their normative matrices, as well as their own idiosyncratic priorities and ethical philosophies. As discussed earlier, the real power of this method of ethical analysis is that it provides a common frame of reference for all students to view the moral situation. Ideally, at the end of the discussion, either consensus within the class can be reached or reasons for differences better understood. Although the framework is nominally focused on the intentions of the actors (a deontological perspective), it can easily be used to accommodate alternative ethical theories. For example, a teleological perspective would project the costs of harm (see Figure 1) in column 1 against the benefits of improvement in column 2 for the complete range of stakeholders and then make a utilitarian judgment. Not only does this action disregard the intentions of the actors, but it also relies heavily on the ability of the decisionmaker to accurately project outcomes. These realizations help students see the inherent assumptions and weaknesses in each position as they play out a decision under each ethical philosophy. Final Comment The use of any framework does not generate or guarantee ethical behavior, nor does it predict or explain the incidence of unethical behavior that can occur in administrative settings. Moreover, the use of frameworks as mere "checklists" to reason through an ethical issue misses the point. This use would convey to administrators and students that ethics is nothing more than a mechanical attempt to satisfy certain criteria. On the contrary, ethical decisionmaking requires the consideration of and the resolution of conflict among a wide array of constituents and moral obligations. Use of the OBP framework can help students and administrators to focus on key ethical elements that lead to more enlightened decisionmaking.