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Framework for Ethical Decision Making

The PLUS Ethical Decision-Making Model

P = Policies: Is it consistent with university policies, rules, regulations, and other applicable university guidance?

L= Legal: Is it acceptable under the applicable laws and regulations? Consult with the Office of General Counsel for assistance if you are unsure.

U = Universal: Does it conform to the universal values the university has adopted?

S= Self: Does it satisfy my personal definition of right, good and fair?

Adapted from The PLUS Ethical Decision Making Model, Ethics and Compliance Initiative. Retrieved from

Other Questions to Consider

Recognize an Ethical Issue

  • Could this decision or situation be damaging to someone or to some group?
  • Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad alternative, or perhaps between two “goods” or two “bads”?
  • Is the issue about more than what is legal or what is most efficient?

Get the Facts

  • Who will be impacted?
  • What are your obligations?
  • What are possible options and consequences (harm, perception etc.)?

Evaluate Alternate Actions

Consider your personal values and the university’s values, and evaluate options by asking the following questions:

  • Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm?
  • Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake?
  • Which option treats people equally or proportionately?
  • Which option best serves the community as a whole?

Make a Decision and Test It

After deciding on the option that best addresses the situation, ask yourself:

  • If I told someone I respect – or told a television audience, what would they say?
  • Would I be comfortable with my decision printed in the newspapers for all to read?

Act and Reflect on the Outcome

  • How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders?
  • How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from it?

Adapted from Valesquez, M., Moberg, D., Meyer, M, Shanks, T., McLean, M., DeCosse, D., Andre, C., and Hanson, K. (2009, May) A Framework for Thinking Ethically. Retrieved from