Feeds:
Posts
Comments

coca_2824997Over the years I have had the opportunity to work with several professors who teach business ethics.   I have taught at a university where a program was developed to teach ethical reasoning to all university students.   I have co-written a peer reviewed journal article on ethical issues associated with online marketing.    Today, at my university have a veteran faculty member who does an outstanding job of engaging business students in the ethical issues of our day.   Yet, I continue to be plagued by the inherent inconsistencies between pedagogical intent and actual student learning outcomes in the teaching of ethics.    I would like to share two specific stories which highlight my point.

Story One:   “Stealing from the Soda Vending Machine”

Several years ago I was co-teaching a leadership class with a fellow faculty member.   In the class, he motivated the importance of teaching ethics by sharing a story about students stealing soda cans from a university vending machine.    Specifically,  he severely criticized the ethical behavior of students for taking soda cans from a soda machine after the machine dispensed several cans after a student only paid for one can.    After class, I questioned the professor by saying the ethics of the situation could depend on the situation that led to the vending machine dispensing the cans (i.e.  Did the machine sometimes take money and not return any cans? or Had students contacted the owner of the machine and received an unsatisfactory reply?).    From the point of the view of the professor, it was simply wrong to ‘steal’ a can of soda and the students were in the wrong.

I was not satisfied with the professor’s reply.    What did I do?   I googled “vending machine ethics” and found a wonderful lesson in ethics from  Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz.    He tells a wonderful tale of ethics, based on Jewish law, that describes the process by which the vending machine customer should evaluate the situation and respond.      As you read the Rabbi’s response, you will see that the response is not as easy as “right” and “wrong”.   See: Hilchos Choshen Mishpat, Volume II, Number 4: Money Extracted From A Vending Machine.

This episode left me puzzled by the business professor’s approach to ethics and his apparent unwillingness to examine the complexity of an interesting ethical dilemma.

 Story Two:   “The Ethics of Uber”

At a recent conference for academic deans, a distinguished professor of business ethics from a major university made a presentation on the importance of teaching ethics in the business curriculum.   She immediately motivated her discussion by launching into a diatribe on the unethical behavior of Uber.      More specifically, she unequivocally stated that Uber was unethical for circumventing taxi cab laws and for treating their employees as contract employees.    After her presentation was over, I gently discussed the notion that nearly all of the tech giants (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, etc.) pushed ethical boundaries and that ultimately there are ethical arguments that can be made pro and con for different business practices and that ultimately these boundaries will be settled in a court of law.    The ethics professor would have none of this – Uber was clearly a business engaged in unethical business practices.    There was no gray in her position.

I later learned that the business ethics professor specialized in labor law.      This troubled me.     From my perspective she was viewing an ethical issue solely from a legal perspective and did not consider the issue from different perspectives.      See: “Ethically, is Uber a better choice than a taxi?”.  Most troubling was that she did this in front of a group of deans – none of whom seemed to be particularly bothered by her analysis.

Conclusion

Why do business ethics professors seem to view complex ethical situations through a black and white lense?    This is troubling.   Few ethical dilemmas have simple solutions.      By presenting these cases as examples of bad behavior as opposed to examples of ethical decision making, they do their students a great disservice.    From my perspective, both of these professors ultimately force our students to rely exclusively on the law and they do little to advance the importance of ethical decision making.    What are your thoughts?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

Mission-300x221Following is a homework assignment that I used with undergraduate students in a leadership development class in our honors program.  The novelty to the assignment was having students work on their resume at the same time they worked on their personal mission statement.  The result was students putting much thought into how their career path would align with personal goals and values.  The students found this exercise to be very rewarding.  Here is the assignment:

TO:  Honors 101 Students

FROM:  Dr. Percy Trappe

RE:  Assignment #2 – Personal Mission Statement and Resume

DATE:  August 28, 2013

The first step in your “leadership journey” is to reflect on what you have accomplished and what would you like to become.   In this exercise you will develop/update your resume (accomplishments) and will develop a first draft of a personal mission statement.

Resume: Submit a one page resume.  A resume is one of the tools you will need to introduce yourself and your experience to employers. It provides prospective employers with their first impression of you-it is an advertisement about you. Your resume is your chief marketing tool in the job search process. Therefore, your resume should be well-organized and highlight your background by emphasizing your skills and qualifications.   Be sure to emphasize your accomplishments.  For guidelines and examples on creating an effective resume be sure to see “Writing an Effective Resume” (http://career.ucsd.edu/undergraduates/prepar-resume-covlet/writing-effective-resume.html)

Personal Mission Statement: Submit a personal mission statement.  Your personal mission statement focuses on:

  1. What you want to be (character)
  2. What you want to do (contributions and achievements)
  3. Principles upon which “being” and “doing” are based

Your mission statement should be no more than one page in length.  In addition, to the mission statement itself, you should submit an “Explanation of My Mission Statement” where you summarize two things: (1) describe the process you used to develop your mission statement, and (2) describe how the three elements of the personal mission statement have been integrated into your final product.

Some resources to help you construct a personal mission statement:

Due Date:  Thursday, September 5, 2013

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

NCAA_logo.svgI have recently had the opportunity to serve on the search committee to find our university’s next athletic director.    Following are ten interview questions that we asked each candidate.  Enjoy!

Question 1: Please tell us why you would like to become the athletic director at our university?

Question 2: What are your long term professional goals and how does this position fit into those goals?

Question 3: Please explain your philosophy and approach to external work (i.e., fundraising, corporate alliances and partnerships, marketing and social media) and how you would apply it to our athletic program. In which of these three areas have you had the most experience?

Question 4:  What is your history around recruiting, hiring, promoting and elevating females, ethnic minorities and LGBT staff in your organization?

Question 5: Excellence is one of our guiding principles for selecting a “next tier leader” for our athletic program. Can you provide an example of moving a “good” program, project or initiative from “good to great” and how were you instrumental in leading this change?

Question 6: Please tell us how you have or would be able to assist scholar athletes in establishing a balance between a successful athletic career and their all-important academic pursuits?

Question 7: Please provide us with one or two examples of major successes with regards to revenue generation in which you were directly involved.

Question 8: Where do you see areas for growth and, in this context, what do you feel a next tier leader would be engaged in to take this athletic program to that next level of athletic success?

Question 9: What will you have accomplished in your first year at our university?

Question 10: The NCAA and our athletic conference are highly disciplined organizations that require members to be in compliance with a multitude of regulations. What role do you see the AD playing to make sure our university is compliant and also has a voice to help set regulations?

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

us versus them

Which way? Of course – “Us”!

I just got out of a faculty meeting.    It turns out that we have an “Us” vs “Them” department head in one of our academic programs – a university department head who generates intense loyalty on the part of his own faculty, but who creates much ill will with faculty and administrators across the college and the campus.

On the one hand, the faculty in his department have the following to say:

  • “How can we possibly move forward without him as our department head?”
  • “He is the reason why I come to work each day.”
  • “He makes this a safe place to work.”
  • “He is our irreplaceable leader.”
  • “Please ask him to not quit.”

What do you think?   Is this a healthy relationship between faculty and department head?    It all depends who you ask.

On the other hand, our “Us” vs. “Them” department head was generally viewed unfavorably across the college and across the campus.   Why?    Here are some examples:

  • He led an effort to “declare war” on other department’s faculty when they gave academic advice to “our students”.
  • He “declared war” on the college administrators when they allowed other departments to schedule student events that conflicted with events in “his” program.
  • He has led a relentless campaign to convince the world that his faculty were underpaid and overworked.     This is a consistent theme with anyone who will listen.   As a result he actively encouraged his faculty to ‘boycott’ college and university activities that weren’t part of the annual faculty contract.  (FYI – his faculty are among the highest paid on campus and are at or above benchmark standards for similar schools.)
  • He has let it be known that he sabotaged the search for a faculty hire in his department because the Dean, in his opinion, had not allocated sufficient funds for the position.
  • He will tell anyone that will listen “The Dean cannot fire me because no one else in my department will take the department head job – too much work and not enough pay.”

From where I sit, this is an unfortunate situation.   Here we have a very talented individual who achieves department level success through “Us vs. Them”.   Frankly, it is quite interesting to see how this approach can be effective in building team cohesion and loyalty.    From a higher level perspective,  I can assure you that this is destructive behavior for both the faculty and the department as a whole.     More on this later ……    Your thoughts?

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

 

phd112410s

The Magical Department Head!

Is your university or college searching for a new department head?  Following is a series of phone interview questions used in a recent department head search.    I hope that you find these interview questions to be useful.

Question One:  What generated your interest in the department head position at our university?

Question Two:  Key dimensions of the department head position include nurturing undergraduate student learning, supporting faculty development, and developing external relations. Give examples of your leadership experience in each area and indicate how you would prioritize these three areas as the department head.

Question Three: Describe your experience supporting interdisciplinary collaboration across departments and across colleges.

Question Four: Describe your leadership style. What have been your most significant leadership successes and challenges?

Question Five:  The successful candidate for this position must continue their scholarship to remain academically qualified. How might you stay active in publishing scholarly research while serving as department head?

FINAL QUESTION
What can we share with you about the department, the college, or our university that would be useful in evaluating your interest in the position?

FOLLOW-UP
If we go further, can we contact your references? Can we contact other people in addition to your references?

– from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe 

 

 

 

Dwight Eisenhower at Columbia University

Columbia University President: Dwight Eisenhower

Below is a list of famous non-living U.S. university or college presidents followed by a brief biography for each.

  1. Dwight Eisenhower (president of Columbia University from 1948 – 1953).  Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO while still serving as president at Columbia University.
  2. Woodrow Wilson (president of Princeton University from 1902 – 1910).    Thomas Woodrow Wilson served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Wilson earned a Ph.D in political science, working as a professor and scholar at various institutions before being chosen as President of Princeton University, where he worked from 1902 to 1910. In 1910 he was elected the 34th Governor of New Jersey, serving from 1911 to 1913. As President, Wilson was a leading force in the Progressive Movement, bolstered by his Democratic Party’s winning control of both the White House and Congress in 1912.

    Princeton University President: Woodrow Wilson

    Princeton University President: Woodrow Wilson (1902)

  3. Joshua Chamberlain (president of Bowdoin College from 1871 – 1883).    Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain was an American college professor from the State of Maine, who volunteered during the American Civil War to join the Union Army. Although having no earlier education in military strategies, he became a highly respected and decorated Union officer, reaching the rank of brigadier general (and brevet major general). For his gallantry at Gettysburg, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. After the war, he served four one-year terms of office as the 32nd Governor of Maine. He served on the faculty, and as president, of his alma mater, Bowdoin College.   [see blog post “Joshua Chamberlain – When the Soul Overmasters Sense“]
  4. Robert E. Lee (president of Washington & Lee University from 1865 – 1870; superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy from 1852 – 1855).   Robert E. Lee  was an American soldier known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.  Lee was a top graduate of the United States Military Academy and an exceptional officer and combat engineer in the United States Army for 32 years.  Lee transformed Washington College into a leading Southern college expanding its offerings significantly and added programs in commerce, journalism, and integrated the Lexington Law School. Lee was well liked by the students, which enabled him to announce an “honor system” like West Point’s, explaining “We have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman.”
  5. William Tecumseh Sherman (first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU) from 1860 – 1861).  Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the “scorched earth” policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States.  [see blog post  “Yankee President, Southern University: William Tecumseh Sherman at Louisiana State University (LSU)“].
  6. James Garfield (president of Hiram College from 1857 – 1860).  Garfield was the 20th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1881 until his assassination later that year. Garfield had served nine terms in the House of Representatives, and had been elected to the Senate before his candidacy for the White House.
  7. Millard Fillmore (chancellor of the University of Buffalo from 1846- 1874).   Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States (1850–1853), the last Whig president, and the last president not to be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties.  As Zachary Taylor’s vice president, he assumed the presidency after Taylor’s death. Fillmore was a lawyer from western New York state, and an early member of the Whig Party. He served in the state legislature (1829–1831), as a U.S. Representative (1833–1835, 1837–1843), and as New York State Comptroller (1848–1849).  Fillmore founded the University at Buffalo and was the university’s first chancellor.
  8. Thomas Jefferson (rector of the University of Virginia from 1819 – 1826).   Jefferson was an American Founding Father, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and the third President of the United States (1801–1809).    In 1819, the 76-year-old Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. He initiated and organized the legislative campaign for its charter and with the assistance of Edmund Bacon, procured and purchased the location. Jefferson was the principal designer of the buildings. Their innovative design was an expression of his aspirations for both state-sponsored education and an agrarian democracy in the new Republic. He also planned the University’s curriculum and served as the first rector. Upon its opening in 1825, it was the first university to offer a full slate of elective courses to its students. With no campus chapel included in the original plans, the university was notable for being centered about a library rather than a church, reinforcing the principle of separation of church and state.
  9. James Madison (rector of the University of Virginia from 1826 – 1836).   Madison was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States (1809–17). He is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and as the key champion and author of the Bill of Rights.

It is interesting to note that only one individual on this list earned a Ph.D. – Woodrow Wilson earned a Ph.D. in 1886 from Johns Hopkins University.

Who is missing from this list?    Please leave a comment if you are aware of additional “famous, non-living” U.S. university presidents.    Thank you!

from the pen of Dr. Percy Trappe

k2-_a5f2dc38-8463-431a-9f33-a0dc59db67fa.v1.jpg-66018fc2406f3216cfcf368a64aa376585858c5b-optim-450x450I have long been fascinated by famous individuals who served as university president.  The Academic Anchor has highlighted a few of these famous university presidents: Dwight Eisenhower (Columbia University), Joshua Chamberlain (Bowdoin College) and Clark Kerr (University of California).    Recently I discovered the most unusual university presidency.  It turns out that General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union Army General during the Civil War, was the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy which would later become Louisiana State University (LSU).   

LSU was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.  ….    In 1853, the Louisiana General Assembly established the  Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy near Pineville, Louisiana. The institution opened January 2, 1860, with Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman as superintendent. A year later, Sherman resigned his position after Louisiana became the sixth state to secede from the Union, on January 26, 1861. The school was forced to close on June 30, 1861, with the start of the American Civil War.

Apparently many of Sherman’s professors resigned to join the Confederate Army while Sherman, as you know, became known for his “March to the Sea” where his scorched earth policies were devastating to the South and the Confederacy.  As stated by David Shribman in his article ‘Sherman’s March Through the South Still Resonates at LSU’ (2007):

It is one of those curious wrinkles of history that the man who, at the beginning of one of the most frightful decades in American history, was a pioneer at one of the signature institutions of the modern South, was also, before the decade had reached its midpoint, the signature villain of the region. Life is not predictable, which is why it is so fascinating.

The legacy of Sherman is still reflected in the culture Army ROTC program at LSU.   According to the LSU ROTC web site:

Yes, from the day it opened its doors in 1860, Louisiana State University has been influenced by its military tradition. In return, for more than a century, LSU has produced a continuing line of military men and women who have greatly influenced United States military history. This long relationship can be seen in countless symbols, including two Civil War cannons, which were used at Fort Sumter and later presented to the University by General William Tecumseh Sherman. It is represented in the Oak Grove and the 175-foot Memorial Tower honoring LSU students and other Louisianians killed in World War I. It is reflected in the War Memorial flag pole and reviewing stand and wall of honor listing the names of those who died serving our country in World War II and all subsequent wars. The heritage also lives in the tradition of LSU’s Tiger mascot, a remembrance of Wheat’s Tigers (a Louisiana unit that distinguished itself during the Civil War). LSU’s character is steeped in military tradition.

Yes, Dr. Percy Trappe believes that the truth is stranger than fiction!

[note: for a list of famous university presidents, including William Tecumseh Sherman, see the blog post “List of Famous University Presidents (United States)“.]