Teaching Ethics

By Rogers, Franci | Baylor Business Review, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview
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Teaching Ethics


Rogers, Franci, Baylor Business Review


WITH ETHICS VIOLATIONS FROM PONZI SCHEMES TO INSIDER TRADING IN THE NEWS ALMOST DAILY. ITS NO WONDER BUSINESS SCHOOLS, NATIONWIDE, ARE EVALUATING HOW AND WHEN TO TEACH ETHICS WITHIN THEIR PROGRAMS.

The Wall Sfreef Journal recently called for MBA programs to strengthen their curriculums by giving students experience in making value judgments and using their alumni bases to give students access to real-life situations i"Promises Aren't Enough: Business Schools Need to Do a Better Job Teaching Students Values," August 23, 2010).

These suggestions are exactly the way ethics have been implemented at Baylor's Hankamer School of Business for many years.

"There are two approaches to teaching ethics," said Mitchell Neubert, associate professor and Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business. "The first is to teach ethics as a required class; the second is to integrate ethics into every class. Schools have found it harder to integrate it, but at Baylor we have done pretty well with the integrated approach."

Neubert may be understating the success of the program. In 2010, Baylor's undergraduate program was ranked in the top five schools for ethics by Bloomberg Businessweek.

"We've always felt that it's important to develop people of integrity and character," Neubert said. "We promote ethics among our faculty, and in turn, our faculty discusses ethics- within their fields- in their classes."

Neubert believes it is important that professors feel comfortable talking about ethics in each of their classes, so that those discussions become a natural part of making decisions.

"It's important for students to hear about ethical situations that may come up in real estate, for example, from their real estate professors," Neu bert said. "Using examples that are specific to the industry they are studying can help students understand not only the temptations of unethical behavior, but how their decisions have consequences outside of just their personal reputations."

Professor of Marketing Marjorie Cooper believes that Baylor's integrated method of teaching ethics is the best approach for the students and for the university.

"There are specific issues in every discipline that are ethical, pervasive problems that come up over and over," she said. "If we have a sense of what they are, we can discuss them intentionally and, perhaps help students avoid them."

In addition to spending one day in a formal discussion of ethics in her classes, Cooper also integrates ethics into daily lessons by discussing things like preserving client confidentiality in advertising, and focusing on a client's best interest when it may conflict with your agency's best financial interest.

"At a Christian university, we need to do more," Cooper said. "There is a reason to do things right for the sake of doing what's right. It's important to go beyond saying, 'Don't do this because you might get caught or because you will make more money.' Both are true, but society may change norms. We need to make sure ethics are grounded in something bigger than ourselves."

She believes that the school's success will be in how students view themselves, as well as how they are viewed by their employers and clients.

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