Business Ethics Start at Business School

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Yesterday’s post about the resignation of an MIT dean for lying on her résumé elicited a torrent of comments. So today, when another high-profile female dean stopped by our offices, I asked what she thought about the whole mess.

First, an introduction. Linda Livingstone is dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. Graziadio was founded in 1969 and currently enrolls about 2,000 students. In fact, it’s the largest business school on the West Coast and the fifth largest in the U.S. It’s got full-time, part-time and executive programs. Livingstone is one of about 50 female deans out of 450 from accredited schools.

Linda Livingstone is dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. / Photo courtesy of Pepperdine

Livingstone doesn’t know Marilee Jones, the MIT dean. Still, “it’s inappropriate for anybody” to fabricate on their CVs, she says. “Unfortunately, the current business climate is such that it’s becoming a real problem.”

The slippery relationship with truth trickles down: some students even lie on their college and grad school applications. Livingstone says some MBA programs are taking to doing random checks on applicants, to see if they are who they say they are. “If we see something odd, something that doesn’t seem right, we have to check it out,” she says. “It’s sad.”

Leaders like Jones set an “unfortunate” example, says Livingstone, but it’s business leaders who do far worse by betraying employees’ and shareholders’ trust with their huge ethical breaches. That’s why it’s so important today to learn business ethics in business schools, she adds. Graziadio weaves ethics and values into its curriculum, inculcating students from orientation to case studies in the sometimes fuzzy topic. More business schools are focusing on ethics as a core part of their curriculum.

Clearly, the folks at Duke’s B-school need to listen up. From Bloomberg:

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business disciplined 34 first-year Master of Business Administration students who were caught in the school’s largest cheating scandal. Fuqua investigated 38 students, Marketing Professor Gavan J. Fitzsimmons, who oversees the school’s judicial panel, said in an e-mail. Four students were cleared and 34 others received disciplinary action ranging from expulsion to failing grades.

If ethics lessons at B-schools like Graziadio stick, we may finally see a generation of business leaders with some moral kahonas. It’s a start, anyway.