STORIES OF INFLUENCE: CRITICAL VALUES IN THE NARRATIVES OF ETHICAL DECISION MAKING FORSENIOR STUDENT AFFAIRS OFFICERS
Kelly, Robert Dwayne
McEwen, Marylu K
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The intent of this study was to understand what senior student affairs officers identify as critical values in ethical decision-making. Through an interpretive approach, narrative inquiry, SSAOs were invited to share professional stories about ethical decision-making. Dewey (1908) discussed two dimensions of ethical decisions. He identified the public side that is shown to others and the private side that silently tests the individual. This private side, through the dialogue of data collection, was exposed and summarized in this dissertation. This interpretive study explored the values, not often discussed openly or shared with others, ten SSAOs considered in ethical dilemmas. Nash (1996) wrote that ethics are a set of principles that govern one's conduct be it privately or publicly. Through this study's examination of the private side of ethical decisions, I was able to learn what these SSAOs considered in their decision-making process. Analysis of the participants' interviews revealed two conclusions: 1. SSAOs consider a wide variety of ethical principles and values in the administrative work, including faith and spirituality, power and powerlessness, reputation and livelihood, and integrity and humanity. 2. SSAOs rely on cultivating relationships with others, especially with their presidents, so that others understand the ethical basis for a decision. These SSAOs were quite concerned not only with the perception of themselves as administrators, but also with how closely-linked relationships between supervisors and supervisees are to the actual process of ethical decision-making. Implications for this study include a recommendation that more graduate programs in higher education provide opportunities for graduate students to reflect upon their actions and the ethical behavior of others within internships and classes. Although prompted, these SSAOs relied on stories from their past to guide their ethical decision-making processes and enjoyed reflecting on their backgrounds as insights into their ethical decision-making. Racial background and gender played a role in the ethical decision-making processes of the SSAOs. Second, SSAOs are in need of supportive colleagues and confidants and should identify such individuals. Last, SSAOs need to examine the stories of their lives to recognize the values and principles that inform their ethical decision-making.