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, like airline pilots, integrity is fundamental. While Sullenberger's definition makes it sound easy, TV and newspaper headlines suggest otherwise. They illuminate again and again 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, the shareholders, clients, or society?
These questions do not always have clear answers and people can sharply disagree over what characterizes "doing the right thing." Recent declarations decrying the development of a “toxic and destructive” culture at Goldman Sachs that abused clients elicited howls that this was simply capitalism in action. The firm’s responsibility – they argued – was not to serve clients ethically, but to increase the wealth of partners and shareholders.
Examining issues of ethics and responsibility is an integral part of your professional education at the Patterson School. This is accomplished through readings, class discussions, scenario exercises, and outside speakers. It is not our intent to provide you with all the "right" answers or solutions to these complex ethical situations. How could we? What we will do is ensure that you have thought about these problems, have been exposed to likely options (and consequences), and have the best preparation we can offer to help you handle moral dilemmas when they inevitably arise.