Academic administrators in the post-secondary environment, such as deans and associate deans, must make difficult, far-reaching decisions in demanding situations almost daily. Researchers have acknowledged the necessity of moral or ethical decision-making for academic administrators, but they have focused primarily on administrators in the kindergarten-to-grade-twelve system. Thus, little is known about how post-secondary academic administrators arrive at their decisions, many of which demand ethical judgements. In this thesis, I examine from a perspective I call “from the inside looking out” my experiences in my role of associate dean at a large suburban university as I resolve ethical dilemmas in my practice. In the past, most research exploring how academic administrators resolve ethical dilemmas has been written using the traditional approach that van Manen (1990) characterizes as being typical of the natural sciences, one which is concerned with knowledge that is generalizable, using procedures that are reproducible and examining participants and samples that are replaceable. This perspective is what I call an “outside-looking-in” approach and does not, I believe, take into account the lived experience of the researcher: it wants for an “inside-looking-out” perspective. To provide this “inside-looking-out” view point, I use a hermeneutic phenomenological approach to analyze three experiences, what I term “scenarios,” that I have encountered as an associate dean: the first involves the performance evaluation of a contract professor, the second a case of plagiarism, and the third a case of accommodation for a student. I examine these scenarios through the lenses of two moral frameworks, Rawls’ (2001) Justice as fairness and Blum’s (1994) focus on moral perception and particularity, and I discuss the consequences, such as moral distress and moral residue, for academic administrators. The relating of my lived experience and the analysis of my scenarios and the discussion of the effects arising from them should serve to help current or future academic administrators as they learn about resolving their own ethical dilemmas in their practice.
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Thesis advisor: Chinnery, Ann
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