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Shades of Gray

Undergraduate and Graduate modules

Developed by Barbara Porco, Ph.D., CPA, Fordham University


Shades of Gray is a series of ethical scenarios developed for Undergraduate and Graduate students that are used to encourage students to consider the impact of their decisions on others. Organized as a group game activity, the scenarios are designed to also help students recognize ethical issues and measure their ethical influence on a group. The Shades of Gray activities are accompanied by a presentation that highlights the obstacles individuals face when assessing the risks that accompany decisions with ethical dimensions.


In small groups, students consider a series of ethical scenarios. Individually, students select what they consider to be the best resolution to the scenario. As a group, students discuss their individual choices in an attempt to convince their group mates that their choice is the best. After a timed discussion, students record the results of their group’s dialogue using their individual scorecards. Students determine the number of group mates who agreed with their choice. Students determine the number of group mates who disagreed with their choice. Students tally their Total Net Influence Score on their Game Card for Round One. An interactive slide presentation accompanies Shades of Gray, enabling faculty to emphasize issues students face when confronted with difficult decisions. After the lecture, students tally their Total Net Impact Scores on their Game Card for Round Two. Once both scores are determined, students plot their Two Scores on a graph providing them feedback to their impact of their actions.


This tool is designed primarily for juniors and seniors. Students currently enrolled in their first auditing class or those who have completed their first audit class may benefit the most from the Role Plays scenarios. However, students who have not taken auditing will likely also be enriched.


The ability to predict the impacts of our decisions is elusive and often wildly overestimated. The number of variables, possible consequences and overlooked or misunderstood facts, makes accurate risk assessment close to impossible. In the absence of complex mathematical models, an individual is left with only instinct and an often vague sense of how to proceed. Therefore, students are encouraged to consider ethical behavior as the best tool for managing personal and professional risk. Doing the “right thing” by considering both the individual and collective impact of decisions is the only effective and reliable method of minimizing risk.

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