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Drs. Domonic Bearfield and Norma Riccucci Win Inaugural Hobby Prize for Best Article on Ethics, Leadership, and Public Policy

Domonic Bearfield
Domonic Bearfield, PhD

Drs. Domonic Bearfield, associate professor, and Norma Riccucci, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor, in the School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) at Rutgers University–Newark, have been awarded the inaugural 2021 Hobby Prize for the Best Article on Ethics, Leadership, and Public Policy. The award, sponsored by the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Center on Ethics and Leadership at the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston, was created to encourage, reward, and bring more attention to high quality work in ethics and leadership in public policy and comes with a prize of $12,000.

Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Norma M. Riccucci
Norma Riccucci, PhD

Their winning article, "The Disenfranchisement of Voters of Color: Redux," was co-authored with Dr. Shannon Portillo of the University of Kansas and appeared in Public Integrity (Taylor & Francis) in July 2020. Focusing on recent legislation restricting voting access and its impact on people of color and low-income whites, the article explores the ethical obligations of public election administrators who are called upon to implement laws with overtly partisan, undemocratic implications. Public administrators are meant to serve as stewards of governance, ensuring democratic principles are carried out in effective, efficient, and equitable ways. Restrictive election laws create an ethical dilemma for elections administrators as they are challenged to find a way to serve as stewards of our democratic values while remaining neutral in the partisan policy-making process. While public administrators have an obligation to be non-partisan, the authors argue that they also have an obligation to uphold equity in voting. The authors conclude that the traditional view of public administrators as having a responsibility to remain strictly neutral without directly advocating for policy change is too constrained.

According to the prize committee, "The Disenfranchisement of Voters of Color: Redux” exemplifies rigorous empirical scholarship while raising important ethical questions with real-world relevance. "The scholarship is original, written in a clear and accessible way, and addresses a timely public policy issue," according to the committee. "It would be an excellent article to teach in ethics and public administration/public policy classes because it engages important issues about the role of administrators in implementing policies that seem, on their face, undemocratic."

To qualify for the award, an article must have been published in a peer-reviewed journal in the three years prior to the award date. Articles should relate in some way to ethics or leadership in public policy, but can have a normative or empirical orientation and may address substantive policy problems or policy processes. The main criteria for the award are originality, scholarly excellence, and the potential to impact the understanding of real-world ethics and/or leadership relating to public policy.