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Liu, B. F., et al (2021). When Crises Hit Home: How US Higher Education Leaders Navigate Values During Uncertain Times.

Bibliographic details:

Liu, B. F., Shi, D., Lim, J. R., Islam, K., Edwards, A. L., & Seeger, M. (2021). When Crises Hit Home: How US Higher Education Leaders Navigate Values During Uncertain Times. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-16.



Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, this study investigates how U.S. higher education leaders have centered their crisis management on values and guiding ethical principles. We conducted 55 in-depth interviews with leaders from 30 U.S. higher education institutions, with most leaders participating in two interviews. We found that crisis plans created prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were inadequate due to the long duration and highly uncertain nature of the crisis. Instead, higher education leaders applied guiding principles on the fly to support their decision-making. If colleges and universities infuse shared values into their future crisis plans, they will not have to develop a moral compass on the fly for the next pandemic. This paper suggests the following somewhat universal shared values: (1) engage in accuracy, transparency, and accountability; (2) foster deliberative dialog; (3) prioritize safety; (4) support justice, fairness, and equity; and (5) engage in an ethic of care. To navigate ethics tensions, leaders need to possess crisis-relevant expertise or ensure that such expertise is present among crisis management team members. Standing up formal ethics committees composed of diverse stakeholders also is instrumental in navigating tensions inherent in crises. The next pandemic is already on the horizon according to experts. Through infusing values into future crisis plans, higher education leaders can be confident that their responses will be grounded in their communities’ shared values.