Ethics, Responsibility, and Integrity
What is integrity? Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (who safely landed USAIR 1549 in the Hudson River after losing his two engines to bird strikes) defines it simply as "doing the right thing when it is inconvenient." He declares "integrity is the core of my profession. An airline pilot has to do the right thing every time." The same might be said about a visa officer, a military commander, an intelligence analyst, a conflict mediator, a refugee camp administrator, or a UN peacekeeper. Patterson School students are often bound for careers where integrity is fundamental. While Sullenberger's definition makes it sound easy, news headlines suggest otherwise. They illuminate constantly behavior of senior leaders – on Wall Street, in Congress, in government, and in NGOs – that ranges from ill considered and unethical to patently illegal.
What is proper conduct for officials and employees who observe or are drawn into unethical situations? How should they respond to directives that appear to violate the public trust? Be quiet, complain, or impede action? Support the boss, blow the whistle, or quit? To whom are they accountable? In government, is it to the President, the party, or the Constitution? In business, is it to the CEO, shareholders, clients, or society?
These questions do not always have clear answers. People can sharply disagree over what characterizes "doing the right thing." There is an ongoing national debate over the ethics of drone strikes and another on making public classified information. Today, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, Bradley Manning has been convicted of espionage, and NSA leaker Edward Snowden on the run. Some have labeled Manning and Snowden "traitors" for their actions, others "heroes."
Examining issues of ethics and responsibility is an integral part of your professional education. This is accomplished through readings, class discussions, scenario exercises, and outside speakers. We will not provide you with the "right" answers to complex ethical situations. What we will do is ensure that you have thought about them and have been exposed to likely options to help you handle moral dilemmas when they inevitably arise.