public servicepublic administration review published H u m a n i t i e s

public servicepublic administration review published H u m a n i t i e s

“The formulations of (discussion) questions themselves and of appropriate methods for answering them become the principal focus of attention for student and teacher alike” (Newcomb, 1989). This method of situating the student as both teacher and learning is the basis of the seminar, which is a hallmark of doctoral education. . Once a semester, students will be required to design a PowerPoint lecture that reviews and summarizes the assigned readings and presents students with questions that require either thoughtful reflection to substantive questions or the application of the material to real-world scenarios. Seminar leaders will post an introductory presentation thread of 15 minutes in length, with 10 minutes reserved for a summary of the relevant readings and 5 minutes reserved for either presenting students with either critical thinking questions or a scenario-based challenge that requires the application of the readings.

Case Study Presentation& Response: Students are expected to lead discussions and take a primary role in their education. Students will prepare a presentation on an assigned case study using PowerPoint with the speaker’s script included in the notes for each slide. This presentation must: (1) present a summary of the readings of the assigned case study, (2) explain the main problem or conflict in the case study and how it relates to the readings, (3) identify the stakeholders, (4) propose a solution, and (5) propose two discussion questions: one related to the reading and one related to the case study. The presentation must be 15-20minutes. Presentations will be evaluated on identifying the main problem or conflict in the case correctly, identifying the stakeholders correctly, proposing a solution, presenting two discussion questions, staying within the time requirement, clarity of presentation, clarity of speech, organization, and appearance of presentations. Is it easy to read? Is there too much text? Is the text too small? Do the graphics, format, and layout keep the attention of the audience.

Ethics of Public Service

Public Administration Review published a fascinating article by James Svara on ethics for public servants. The genesis of Svara’s inquiry is the adoption in 2015 by the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) of a revision of its code of ethics.

ASPA first adopted a code of ethics in 1984, but other professional organizations had such codes much earlier, going back (at least in this country) to the International City/County Management Association’s code that was adopted in 1924. Svara recounts the history of codes of ethics and reviews the debates about their usefulness. This could not be more timely. Given the seemingly incessant drumbeat of scandals at all levels of government these days, the need has never been greater for a strong culture of ethical behavior in the public sector.

Codes of ethics for public administrators recognize, first and foremost, that administrators are not just neutral implementers of policy. In fact, “filling in the details” of often vague legislation is often left to professional–but unelected–civil servants. As a result, the view held a century ago that bureaucrats simply carry out the details of policy in some kind of a value-free manner has been almost completely discredited. Almost everyone now recognizes that the cop on the beat, the teacher in the classroom and the doctor in a VA hospital have real power to make policy and therefore affect lives.

Who Are the Keepers of the Code? Articulating and Upholding Ethical Standards in the Field of Public Administration


  1. Understanding the importance of ethics to public administrators
  2. Learning how to address an ethical dilemma
  3. Understanding the issues of administrative responsibility
  4. Exploring the variety of issues that present ethical issues to administrators
  5. Learning how to create an ethical climate in an agency


This week considers the ethical issues faced by public managers, focusing on the fundamentals of ethical deliberation, administrative responsibility, the moral and ethical problems that may arise for administrators in public organizations, and the importance of providing an ethical climate in a public or nonprofit agency. Emphasis is placed on the ability of the administrator to understand the context in which public problems arise and to work out those problems in a careful, reasoned, and ethical fashion. As part of this discussion, the material elaborates on tensions between efficiency and responsiveness as ethical dilemmas experienced by the public administrator.

The readings define the terms morality and ethics, noting that, although the two are used interchangeably, the distinction between them is important not only for philosophical reasons but also because of the deliberative aspect of ethics. The material argues that by understanding the context in which an action occurs, working through the arguments on all sides, and arriving at a set of guidelines for action, public managers can act with greater clarity and confidence; thus, the steps of ethical deliberation are discussed in detail. This discussion includes an examination of the predominant moral philosophies or approaches to deciding on the proper course of action, the levels of moral development through which individuals pass, and the variety of approaches one might use to help ensure he or she is acting in an ethical manner.

The focus moves next to issues of administrative responsibility, which involve the potentially conflicting demands on the public manager to operate as efficiently as possible while being fully responsive to a wide variety of stakeholders. This tension between efficiency and responsiveness, the material argues, characterizes many of the problems that public administrators face. This includes an examination of the limits on administrative discretion, which involves the question of how we can ensure that administrators exercise discretion in a way that is consistent with the will of the people. As part of this discussion, the classic Finer-Friedrich debate over external and internal controls on administrative discretion is covered. This week also addresses ethical arguments for public participation and transparency in government and explores the ethical issues associated with the increasing involvement of for-profit and nonprofit organizations in the delivery of public programs.

Multiple kinds of ethical problems may occur in the context of work in public organizations. This includes an examination of the relationship between public administrators and elected officials, which creates a unique and pervasive set of issues for the public manager. As part of this discussion, issues of organizational authority, particularly that of “following orders,” are addressed. Another area of potential ethical difficulties for public administrators that is addressed is that of conflicts of interest. As the readings point out, finding ways to avoid conflicts of interest has been central to ethics legislation at all levels of government for decades. The material traces the history of this kind of legislation at the federal level, referencing details of how recent presidential administrations have approached this issue. The readings include an exploration of whistle-blowing, or employee disclosure of problems in public organizations, and the prohibitions defined by law on political activities by civil service employees.

The material provides suggestions for how managers can promote more ethical behavior in public organizations. This includes formal controls, such as rules and regulations and codes of ethics, and more informal means of establishing an ethical climate, such as leading by example, valuing ethical behavior, and encouraging free and open communication throughout the organization.


Read: Chapter 15 & 16: Richard Stillman

Read: The following from Shafrtiz and Hyde:

  • Bureaucracy and Public Interest, E. Pendleton Herring.
  • Watergate: Implications for Responsible Government, Fredrick C. Mosher & Others.
  • The Possibility of Administrative Ethics, Dennis F. Thompson.
  • Unmasking Administrative Evil, Guy B. Adams & Danny Balfour.
  • The Ethics of Decent: Managing Guerilla Government, Rosemary O’Leary.
  • Ethics for Bureaucrats: An Essay on Law and Values (1979) John A. Rohr.
  • The Ethics Challenge in Public Service (1992) Carol W. Lewis.

Case Study Reading for this week: Week 11 Loyalty Ethics and Whistle Blowing Case A (Attached)

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