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California State University, Long Beach
Dean of Students
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Ethical Development Case Studies


September 11 Tragedy

On September 11, 2001, Americans defined the term "true heroes" as ordinary people who perform extraordinary acts. The firefighters, police and EMS personnel who performed these extraaordinary heroic acts risked their lives by entering the World Trade Center Towers to save strangers.

Before these events, heroes were defined by how far a quarterback could throw a football, a buzzer-beater shot by a basketball player or on-screen performances by movie stars.

  • Do you think you would be willing to rescue a stranger?
  • Would different circumstances change your decision?
  • What circumstance would change your decision?


Treasurer's Dilemma

You are the treasurer of a student organization, the Mountain University Ski Bums. The club has just sponsored a ski sale to raise funds for a winter trip to Vail, Colorado. Planning has occurred the entire year to assure the success of the sale, with virtually all of the club’s annual income coming from this one event.

The written financial policy of the organization states that all cash funds collected must be deposited in the club’s bank account within 24 hours of receipt to guarantee security and enhance interest earnings.

The sale has been completed and the cash from the sale totals $4,500 dollars. It’s dinnertime on Saturday and you take the cash back to your apartment with the intention to deposit the funds in the ATM at the bank.

About 9:00 pm, your roommate receives a phone call and learns that his significant other has been injured in an auto accident and is in the hospital in Seattle. He checks and finds that a round trip ticket to Washington is going to cost $590, but only has $45 to his name. The roommate tries to borrow the money for the ticket from friends and family with no luck. He then asks you for an unofficial loan from the ski sale cash you are holding in your desk. He promises to pay it back as soon as possible. You know that you are the only one that knows the amount of cash you are holding since the other officers left the sale before the income was counted. You could loan him the money and no one would know. Later, when he pays you back, you could deposit the funds in the account.

  • What would you do? Why?
  • What ethical basis would you use for your decision?