Require ethics classes for M.B.A.s

Profit-oriented classes dominate the curriculums at business schools but schools can take steps to improve ethical understanding.

According to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, 65 percent of member schools do not require their students to take an ethics course. It should come as no surprise, then, that headlines have been filled with the ousting of crooked businessmen. Simply, students fresh out of business school are not equipped with an adequate background in ethical business practice. Schools of business must place more emphasis on ethics.

Granted, the days of hand-shake trust and business deals are over. The world of business is cutthroat and unforgiving. This does not mean it has to be a world without morals. The law field can be just as challenging, yet a large emphasis is placed on ethical conduct. Before judges and lawyers get involved, the inevitable conflict and issues in business can largely be addressed through education.

Profit-oriented classes dominate the curriculums at business schools, which is expected. But schools can take steps to improve ethical understanding. The business school accrediting association should require that all Master of Business Administration students take some ethics courses. The University of Pittsburgh has implemented a more comprehensive solution. Every business course in the college must address the ethical aspects of the core subject matter.

It is too common that students enter the business world believing that they are immune to ethical dilemmas. And too often their ethical education is not enough to help them discern between what is right and wrong, in situations where the difference is not clear.

The blame of corrupt business practices cannot and should not be placed upon business schools. But they should bear part of the responsibility. Additionally, requiring only one ethics course tends not to affect students to the degree necessary. Instead, ethics elements should be integrated into each business course. A little education might go a long way toward closing the seemingly widespread gap between business practice and business ethics.