Power in Knowledge: The Effects of Motivation and Information on Ethical Decision-Making


Paul was a third year faculty member at a community college in the Midwest. While working with the Chancellor on several committees in his brief tenure he struck up a good rapport with administration. During his third year, Paul was asked by the Chancellor to be one of 2 faculty representatives on the budget committee that spring. At the meeting, Paul learned that a larger than normal merit pay pool was available that year, and that unused monies in the merit pool would be transferred back into the general fund. As a third year faculty member, Paul felt he was underpaid compared to some of his other colleagues and had a decision to make regarding what he was going to do with the information he obtained in the meeting. This case illustrates the impact of fairness and motivation on individual decision-making. It also illustrates how people make decisions depending on which ethical model – utilitarian, rule-based, virtue-based, or relativism – they use as their ethical base.

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