Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Follow SDSU  Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook Follow SDSU on Google+ SDSU RSS Feed

An SDSU student speaks during a presentation. (Photo: Jeffrey Brown) An SDSU student speaks during a presentation. (Photo: Jeffrey Brown)
 


Check Your Moral Compass

The Fowler College of Business is renewing its commitment to teaching business ethics.
By Coleen L. Geraghty
 

“The media focus on ethics in business tends to run in cycles, but training tomorrow’s ethical leaders has been an ongoing initiative in the Fowler College of Business.”

Management 444, Lori Ryan’s upper division class on Business Ethics and Corporate Governance, is not for the easily intimidated.

Conversations around topics like corporate whistle-blowing and Big Pharma’s drug pricing often escalate into lively debates, and students leave class certain about this: in business, the ethical trajectory isn’t always straightforward.

“There’s a lot of discussion in Professor Ryan’s class,” said senior Gabrielle Williams. “We spent time listening to our peers, which leads to an understanding that people have different interpretations of right and wrong. Ethics can be a gray area, and that’s okay.”

Not without consequences

By Ryan’s estimate, more than 1,500 students have completed her Management 444 course since she began teaching it in 2001 (Others also teach the class, but Ryan is senior professor and coordinator). Her classes fill quickly, and that trend is likely to continue as the Fowler College of Business, led by new dean Lance Nail, renews its commitment to place business ethics at the center of the undergraduate and graduate curriculum.

“We have to be honest with our students and explain that sometimes being ethical is going to cost you,” said Nail. “You have to be prepared for possible short-term negative consequences.”

National trend

Universities across the country are taking a second look at how they teach ethics in business colleges, particularly in MBA programs. A December 2017 New York Times article linked this renewed scrutiny to a rash of ethical offenses by major companies, for example, Wells Fargo’s creation of fake accounts and the string of sexual harassment charges against Fox News.

“The media focus on ethics in business tends to run in cycles, but training tomorrow’s ethical leaders has been an ongoing initiative in the Fowler College of Business,” said Ryan. “Our most recent addition is a business ethics module at the beginning of the MBA core, so that students can share a common approach and ethical vocabulary as they work through their programs.”

To serve future students, the college is looking at new ways to promote ethics education, possibly creating an Ethics Week, which would bring guest speakers to campus and signal to students that ethics is a critical piece of a business degree.

“We tell our students to be prepared for the difficulties, but know that they have only one integrity chip in their pot, said Nail. “Once you play that chip, it’s gone.”