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Professors push for businesses to be ethical

By Brandon Johansson
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — Corporate scandals like Enron and Worldcom have shone a bright spotlight on business ethics.

In Boulder last week, business professors from around the world gathered to discuss the role business schools play in teaching ethics to their students.

More than 200 academics attended the three-day 2004 Teaching Business Ethics Conference at the Millennium Harvest Hotel.

This is the first year for the conference, and organizers hope to make it an annual event.

The conference focused on ways that schools can improve their ethics programs.

The conference is a joint project between the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business, the University of Wyoming and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

Co-chairs were Bob Kolb, assistant dean for business and society at CU-Boulder, O.C Ferrell, chair and professor of marketing at CSU and his wife Linda Ferrell, assistant professor of marketing and management at University of Wyoming.

The trio said this is the first collaborative conference that they know of between the three institutions.

O.C. Ferrell said they put on the conference because there was a need for a business ethics conference focused on teaching.

“That’s why the first word of this is teaching,” he said.

The need for business schools to teach ethics, Linda Ferrell said, is increasingly critical in the face of corporate scandals and white-collar crime.

“I taught marketing ethics for the first time last fall and students said they wanted more (ethics classes),” Linda Ferrell said.

On Thursday, during a panel discussion called “Philosophy for Ethics Education in Business Schools,” the panel discussed different approaches that schools can take to teaching ethics.

The five-person panel included Debbie McAlister from Texas State University, Eugene Heath from State University of New York at New Paltz, Bruce Hutton from University of Denver, Joseph Petrick from Wright State University and Sheb True of Kennesaw University.

The panel discussed integrating ethics into other business courses and the need to articulate to students the importance of ethics.

Also during the Philosophy for Ethics in Education panel, organizers passed out a survey asking about Martha Stewart, Kenneth Lay of Enron and challenges facing business ethics teachers.

“This is the best body you can find to make a judgement on these issues,” O.C. Ferrell said of the conference’s audience.