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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Ethics courses needed

Texas A&M is one of the most prominent public universities that does not require ethics courses for its business students, according to The Houston Chronicle. While this may have been acceptable before the revelation of corporate shenanigans at companies such as WorldCom and Enron, it is clear that institutions that teach business students market savvy must also work to bring conscience into their classrooms. This includes A&M, which should require future business students, both undergraduates and MBA candidates, to take ethics courses.
If for no other reason, A&M should require ethics classes to compete with other prominent institutions of higher learning in Texas. The University of Texas at Austin will require ethics courses for the first time this fall, according to The Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle also reported that Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management already mandates that students take courses in ethics.
Of course, some Aggies might argue that Aggies are more honorable and trustworthy than their peers in other schools. Therefore, there is no chance of an Aggie executive participating in a corporate scandal such as those seen at Tyco or WorldCom.
The notion that Aggies do not lie, cheat or steal is nice, but untrue. Especially in light of a 1997 academic integrity survey that showed an astonishing 88 percent of Aggies cheated in some form at least once, according to The Battalion. Unfortunately, even Aggies could use assistance in dealing with ethical dilemmas that are likely to occur in the workplace.
According to the results of a BusinessWeek reader survey released Jan. 21, 64 percent of the respondents said they “think that ethics should be a required, stand-alone course for MBA students.” Also, Gov. Rick Perry, Class of 1972, has set up a task force that will examine how public universities in Texas can improve the teaching of business ethics, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Some may argue that emphasis should be placed on interweaving ethics into accounting, marketing and finance classes. There is no doubt that implemented correctly, this method can be quite effective. For example, Dr. L. Murphy Smith, CPA, and a professor in the accounting department, explains his method of teaching ethics, “incorporates ethics dilemmas/cases into my lectures throughout the semester. In addition, I have a one-day focused lecture on ethics, which I’ve presented to over 50 classes and in other settings.”
Unfortunately, not all faculty members are like Smith, who believes ethics should be integrated into all courses, and explains, “Regrettably, for various reasons, many faculty do not integrate ethics into their courses. Faculty may feel there is not time enough to include ethics in a course already packed with technical topics.” Smith adds, “Some faculty may feel uncomfortable or ill-prepared to discuss ethics. Ethics can be a sensitive topic.”
If business school faculty members feel uncomfortable discussing ethical issues with their students or they feel such discussions get in the way of the technical details of the classes, one possible solution is to hire faculty members who are experts in teaching ethics and offer a separate, stand-alone class that focuses solely on business ethics.
Aggie engineers are already required to take a stand-alone course on ethics, “Ethics and Engineering.” This is necessary because future engineers must be taught the possible consequences when engineers act unethically. The engineering ethics page on the A&M Web site, ethics.tamu.edu, lists examples of technological and ecological disasters that may occur when engineers perform their jobs in an unethical and unprofessional manner. Examples on the Web site include the Jan. 28, 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster that killed seven astronauts; the July 17, 1981 Kansas City Hyatt-Regency Hotel walkway collapse that killed 114 people; and the infamous Exxon oil spill.
But in the wake of a myriad of corporate scandals, it is clear that there are severe consequences when business people disregard ethics. Thousands of people lost their jobs domestically and overseas in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals, according to BBC News and The Guardian Unlimited.
In the Business Week reader survey, 75 percent of respondents believed ethics were best taught at home by parents. This is undoubtedly true, but business ethics classes will allow students to relate these home-taught ethics to issues in the business world. Besides being in a new and disturbing age of corporate scandal, it is obvious that there is no such thing as someone being too ethical.

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