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Quality Enhancement Plan

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An Ethical Decision Making Initiative 

Faculty, staff and students at WPU worked diligently between 2008 and 2011 to create a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) as required by the Southern Associates of Colleges and Schools. We believe our topic choice, Ethical Decision Making, will benefit students both personally and professionally while also sharpening their critical thinking skills. The program, aptly nicknamed CHOICES, spans the first year through the senior year and involves case study analysis, considering dilemmas in one's profession, and interactions with leaders who have faced difficult ethical decisions. In the fall of 2012, the CHOICES program officially took off.  

Student Learning Outcomes

Students’ ethical self-identity develops as they practice ethical decision making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues.Ethical decision making is the process of making decisions about human conduct. It requires individuals to assess their ethical values and the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, consider the ramifications of alternative actions, and justify their final decision. In order for students to become more effective at ethical decision making they will need to acquire conceptual knowledge related to making ethical decisions, values associated with choosing ethical  actions, and ethical decision making skills they can apply to complex ethical dilemmas. Thus, we have crafted three student learning outcomes. Students will:

1. Understand concepts that provide a common language for analyzing ethical situations including:

                 Distinguish between ethical dilemmas and moral temptations

                 Identify core values related to ethical decision making and define each

                 Identify concepts such as ethics, morals, character, ethical principles, and ethical relativism

2. Adopt values consistent with ethical decision making.

3. Apply an ethical decision making process when confronted with ethical dilemmas.

 If you want more information of the CHOICES program, please contact Dawn Dillon, Director of the First Year Experience  or  Barbara Efird, Director of Career Services.


Ethical Concepts

noneThroughout the CHOICES program, student will learn about and discuss the following concepts:





Ethical Principles

Ethical Relativism

Moral Temptations 

Ethical Dilemmas

These final two concepts provide a challenge for students in which first understanding the difference in each type of situation is critical.  For example, Is turning a friend into a professor an ethical dilemma or a moral temptation?

CHOICES Core Values

Research revealed six values that are closely related to making good ethical decisions.  We have adopted those values as a key part of the CHOICES program:







Eight Questions Model for Ethical Decision Making/CHOICES

none1.       Purpose and Question?

2.       Information?

3.       Points of View?

4.       Principles (and Values)?

5.       Assumptions?

6.       Options and Consequences?:

7.       Conclusion? 

8.       Implications? 

Case Studies

A primary pedagogy used in teaching ethical decision making skills in the CHOICES program is through use of case studies.  Some case studies are very short ethical issues at we call CHOICES Situation. We use these to help students learn the tenets  of CHOICES.  Examples of CHOICES Situation are:

  • You discover your brother is selling classified information to  a foreign power. Do you turn him in?
  • You are applying for a job that requires experience you don’t have. Do you claim that you do?
  • The only available spot in the parking lot is reserved for the handicapped. You are in a hurry and wont be very long. Do you park there?  
  • You work at a bank. Another employee is blamed for your error involving thousands of dollars. It cannot be traced. Do you own up?
  • In order to marry someone you love, you must change your religion. Do you do it?

Once students are able to identify values, determine if the situation is an ethical dilemma or moral temptation and understand the 8 questions model, we introduce more developed case study and ask students to approach them with a critical eye.  Case studies are then used in many other courses where students take real life scenarios and look at them through an ethical lens where we hope they developed critically examined decisions..  Each year we have a CHOICES Case Study Competition at our annual Student Showcase.  It is open up to all student to compete before an audience and panel of judges.  Here is the case considered at the 2015 CHOICES Case Study Competition:

2015 Student Showcase CHOICES Case Study

In February, NBC News suspended its chief anchor and managing editor Brian Williams for six months without pay.   The scandal erupted in January when he made an appearance at a New York Rangers hockey game with a soldier who provided security for the anchor and his reporting team in Iraq in 2003. The arena’s public address announcer said the soldier was with Williams after his Chinook helicopter was “hit and crippled by enemy fire.” Williams featured the appearance on his “Nightly News” broadcast on Jan. 30, 2015. However, a flight engineer on the helicopter that was hit posted a message on Facebook saying Williams was not on the same aircraft.

Trying to control the damage, Williams told Stars and Stripes, the newspaper that first reported the flight engineer’s remarks that he “would not have chosen to make this mistake. I don’t know what screwed up in my mind that caused me to conflate one aircraft from the other.” Williams also went on Facebook and posted an apology, explaining that he’d actually been on a trailing helicopter, and he delivered another an acknowledgment of his error on the Feb. 4 “NBC Nightly News” broadcast.

Other news reports have emerged after this situation, questioning other Williams’ statements featured in an award winning documentary about Hurricane Katrina.  Williams made several questionable claims in interviews including he had witnessed a suicide at the Superdome in New Orleans, saw a body floating by his hotel in the French Quarter and had contracted dysentery from accidentally ingesting floodwater. Bloggers and newspaper columnists noted that he hadn’t reported the suicide when he was on assignment in New Orleans, that the French Quarter had largely remained dry during the hurricane and that there were no reported outbreaks of dysentery.

But Williams is a very popular public figure who has enjoyed a positive reputation and served NBC well.  Williams replaced Tom Brokaw in 2004 as NBC Nightly News anchor after working as a reporter at the network since the early 1990s. NBC has made a large monetary investment in the brand that is Brian Williams.  Mixing serious journalism with occasional appearances on late night talk shows, Williams has helped NBC Nightly News preserve its lead over competitors. Over the years, there has been an overall drop in evening news viewership but under Williams, NBC Nightly News averages about 9 million to 10 million viewers a night, edging ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News.

The status of Williams’ continuing tenure at NBC after the six months suspension is unknown.  Using the CHOICES Eight Question Model as the basis for your analysis of this case, should NBC fire Brian Williams at the end of the suspension?

The case study was written by Dawn Dillon. Information for case is based on the following articles:;