Faculty Ethics from the Perspective of College of Business Administrators

By McKay, Ruth B.; Kidwell, Linda A. et al. | Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Faculty Ethics from the Perspective of College of Business Administrators


McKay, Ruth B., Kidwell, Linda A., Kling, James A., Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues


ABSTRACT

Recent corporate scandals have led to calls for improved instruction in ethics in colleges of business. The leading accrediting body for business programs, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has also recently increased its standards concerning ethics in business curricula. Furthermore, the ethics of professors themselves have come under increasing scrutiny. Deans are key contributors to and enforcers of college policies, and their expectations help influence ethics within a college of business. However, there is a dearth of ethical analysis of faculty behavior as viewed by college of business deans and administrators. A questionnaire of American and Canadian college of business deans and administrators was conducted to provide insight into the implications and frequency of particular faculty behavior. The presence of a code of ethics was found to increase sensitivity towards ethical issues but not alter behavior. Reasons for not adopting a code of ethics and potential motivators for adoption are presented.

INTRODUCTION

Ethics is the inquiry into the nature and grounds of morality, which includes moral judgments, standards and rules of conduct (Taylor, 1975,1). There have been many studies on the unethical behavior of academics. The books Saints and scamps: Ethics in academia (Cahn, 1986) and ProfScam: Professors and the demise of higher education (Sykes, 1988) both outline the profile of the unethical academic. According to Sykes, many professors have "abandoned their teaching responsibilities and their students. To the average undergraduate, the professoriate is unapproachable, uncommunicative and unavailable" (1988, 5). The academic is, "mobile, self interested and without loyalty to institutions or the values of liberal education" (Sykes, 1988, 7). Cahn (1986) is more specific by providing a brief sketch of the activities of a shirking professor. This professor regularly cancels classes, arrives late, is unprepared, avoids giving exams, leaves mail unopened and never attends faculty meetings.

With the recent ethical crises in corporate governance in North American and European organizations, many business managers are reevaluating their ethical policies and employee perspectives. For example, the European Union has required all companies listed on European exchanges to adopt international accounting standards, considered stronger than the current accounting rules in several European countries (Matlack, 2003). The importance of a code of ethics was reinforced when the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002. Section 406 of the act requires publicly traded companies to disclose whether the company has adopted a code of ethics for their senior financial officers and if not, why not. Companies are further required to report to the SEC when any component of their code is altered. Some have interpreted this act as mandating a code (Integrity Interactive, 2005).

Given the conspicuous breaches of trust identified in the practices of business executives in organizations such as Qwest Communications International Inc., HealthSouth, Enron, WorldCom, Oracle, Sunbeam, General Electric, Royal Ahold NV, Comroad, Global Crossing, Parmalat, and Arthur Anderson it is essential that business schools complete a self evaluation of the practices within their organizations. It is not enough to teach ethical practices; students expect professors to be ethical. In two recent studies of undergraduate students, Kuther (2003) found that students expect professors to be highly competent and current in the classroom and to keep their personal and professional lives separate. She concludes that students view professors as role models who act as exemplars of scholarship and professional behavior. This finding is supported by McLean (2004) who found that medical students also identify their faculty as important role models.

In a similar and perhaps equally important way, the quality, ethics, and governance practices of an academic institution should model to students an appropriate culture in a large organization. …

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