David Frasier, assistant dean at the University at Buffalo—SUNY's School of Management, says he and fellow colleagues at his institution, which requires a course in business ethics and government, have noticed more professors integrating ethics into syllabi. "Many, if not most, textbooks are now giving significant coverage to the topic in both chapter material and cases and questions at the end of each chapter," he says.
[See how some business schools are reinventing the M.B.A.]
On the professional networking site LinkedIn, more than 1,000 users who identify themselves as professors list "business ethics" in their profiles, and 80 users have "professor," "business," and "ethics" in their current titles.
Whether or not they represent a trend, it's clear that ethics programs are offering troves of PR opportunities for schools, but do they add any value for students?
Schmutter, the part-time student at NYU, says the ethics course was worthwhile and "quite possibly will impact the way alumni act in the workplace."
Many business school faculty members agree. According to Mark Johnston, a professor of marketing and ethics at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., the importance of ethics in business is more critical than ever.
At the Crummer Graduate School of Business, where Johnston teaches, M.B.A. students are required to take an ethics course and to engage in community service. "The results have been dramatic," he says. "Students report a raised awareness of social responsibility, and local organizations very much appreciate the help of bright and enthusiastic M.B.A. students."
Eli Kass, an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, sees it as a kind of race against time.
"Many people blame business schools for the behavior of our graduates," he says. "We only have them for a few years of their lives and, once they leave, they join organizations whose culture[s] and other members may have very different views on ethics, corporate social responsibility, their relevance, and even what they mean in that particular organization."
Schools need to help students develop in a way that stays true to "their moral compass," Kass says, "even when they leave the university, and even if they are surrounded by others who may subscribe to different standards."
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