Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Teaching Business Ethics - Is It a Lost Cause?

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Teaching Business Ethics - Is It a Lost Cause?

Article excerpt

This paper reviews current corporate scandals to include such noteworthy examples as Frank Quattrone, Martin Grass, Martha Stewart, Tyco, United Nations, WorldCom, Adelphia Communications, Fannie Mae, Parmalat, Qwest Communications, Rite Aid, Health South, Enron and Kenneth Lay, to name a few. Several key individuals involved with these scandals are graduates of business schools and this paper examines what some of those business schools and other business schools have done regarding their respective curricula in the ethics area and the potential implications for the future.

The issues of ethics and values appear to be depreciating in our society on a daily basis. The headlines in the various publications and the stories of individuals at all levels of all types of institutions and organizations appear to support the proposition that there is a significant and continuing erosion of ethics and values in our society. Ethical codes, the changing ethical culture [Dufresne, 2002], and ethical decision making [Lyttle, Anakwe, Chan, Eisner, Sama and Shoaf, 2002] have been and continue to be debated and discussed and arc coming under heightened and continued scrutiny. We see these examples of unethical conduct in academia, the military, the government, and religious institutions.

There is no shortage of studies regarding the study of business ethics and business ethics students. An example of the aforementioned is a survey of 2,830 undergraduate business and philosophy departments regarding their offerings of business ethics courses. [Morris, 2001 ] A recent study of 126 business students concluded that the ethical decision-making of the students in the study was still "sub-optimal". [Chen-Fong Wu, 2003]

Background of the Problem

An article in the New York Times entitled, "With Student Cheating On The Rise More Colleges Are Turning To Honor Codes", indicated that "for many college students, the once-clear lines that defined cheating have faded". [Zernicke, 2002; Hurst, Warren, Woodilla, Vega, 2003] More colleges and universities are adopting honor codes or strengthening existing ones. "Cheating has become so common, experts say, that it often goes unreported and unpunished. The new honor codes aim to punish more while also forcing students and faculty members to think about the kinds of offenses that constitute cheating. At large universities and small liberal art colleges alike, educators talk about restoring a culture of honor'". [Zernicke, 2002; Hurst et al, 2003] An example of the aforementioned student cheating would include the recent alleged disclosures regarding some of the family members of the Wal-Mart organization. Bill and Nancy Lauri donated 25 million dollars to the building campaign for the sports arena at the University of Missouri. Mr. and Mrs. Lauri received the naming rights after donating the 25 million dollars and subsequently named the sports arena the Paige Sports Arena after their daughter, Elizabeth Paige Lauri. The Lauris have agreed to allow the university to rename the sports arena after a disclosure by Elizabeth Lauri's roommate at the University of Southern California who stated in a 20/20 interview "that Lauri paid her about $20,000 over 3Yi years to write papers and complete other assignments for her". [Associated Press, 2004]

Additionally, cheating among students is expanding at all levels of education. Organizations with alleged strong and effective honor codes such as the military academies have had numerous and increasing cheating scandals. In a recent interview with David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong To Get Ahead [Burmeier and Stern, 2004], he asserts people cheat because everyone else is doing it [Callahan, 2004]. The author further asserts that "Inside financial scams are a $600 billion problem, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners" [Callahan, 2004]. A few college professors are contributing to this problem by ghost writing papers for computer services that then sell the papers to college students who utilize these papers for the completion of assignments. …

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