The President of Penn State University has recently and quite publicly announced an embrace of a final version of what is called the Penn State Values. There is no doubt that the entire university community applauds the culmination of what this senior administrator has described as a complex four year progress producing a document, and its values, which, though merely "aspirational in nature" are meant to "guide our actions and decisions as members of the Penn State community".
The university president encourages everyone "to use and incorporate the Penn State Values in their activities, planning and discussions" for which it has developed toolkits, an ethical decision making model, and a set of guiding questions. The Penn State community is promised examples of the application of these values gleaned from what were called Town Hall meetings and will recognize ethical model citizens from among the university community.
Most important, perhaps, the university president noted that these Penn State Values now form part of the core of "the recently approved University strategic plan, which is currently being implemented." And plans are in the works to "further integrate" these aspirational values "more fully into University life at all levels."
This post considers this valuable exercise and considers its application to the working lives of senior leadership. In a university, like other leading American public universities, in which senior leadership ought to be committed to leading by example in a transparent way that enhances accountability, Penn State values culture might provide a useful mechanism for better decision making at the highest levels of administrative life.