Columbia Joins Harvard, Wharton & Booth on Ethics Parade

by Aman Singh Das | July 07, 2011

Columbia Business School Dean R. Glenn Hubbard wants his students to get better at "making the connections." And he doesn’t mean networking.

Hubbard wants students to better understand how decision-making and ethics interlay across disciplines and sectors. In an interview published today in The Wall Street Journal, he discusses why the school is shifting gears on curriculum.

An excerpt:

"When I became dean there were a lot of schools doing this through standalone ethics classes. My view is students marginalize classes like that. I don't think students pay attention to it the way they do when it's integrated into your marketing course, into your operations course, into your finance class."

"We have cases that are woven through and outside speakers who come in to work with the students. What's really important for young business-school students is to see this as a real problem, looking at a real business person confronted with this issue and how he or she dealt with it."

Now Columbia is certainly not the first b-school to jump on the responsible leadership bandwagon in recent months, with Chicago's Booth School, Harvard and Wharton all on the same path. And now that there is ranking for business schools on ethics, none of this comes as a surprise.

But, interestingly, Hubbard's also discussed his decision to beef up disclosure of CBS faculty's "outside activities."

This step, as altruistic and transparent as it might sound, isn't without cause.

Columbia's faculty—specifically Hubbard—received intense scrutiny in Charles Ferguson's documentary Inside Job for his work with financial services firms. The documentary, which narrates the underpinnings of the recent financial crisis and puts the blames on a ruthless system of greed and speculation, alleged that Hubbard's work with Wall Street might be in conflict with his full time job as a business school dean.

Also highlighted: His $250,000 stipend for serving on the board of MetLife.

So now every faculty member at CBS will disclose all sources of incomes and relationships, just like "they [show] publications and teaching" on their resume.

At last year's Net Impact conference, Harvard Professor Srikant Datar, also the author of Rethinking the MBA: Business Education at a Crossroads, said, "Business is about leading people and delegating, making things happen, not doing everything yourself. [There needs to be a realization that] a sense of purpose must be very high on your priority list. And this is where the MBA curriculum fails."

This sense of purpose isn't what Hubbard is preaching, whether it’s the new curriculum or the decision to bare all faculty relationships.

Instead, he is de-marginalizing ethics in classrooms in an attempt to re-teach responsible capitalism. Will this approach work versus those taken by Harvard and Wharton? Hard to say.

Then there's University of Pennsylvania Professor Martin Seligman who, in a recent reference to curriculum changes at Wharton, remarked, "If MBAs who care only about making a quick fortune are given 10 ethics courses, it will have no effect. It’s a matter not of ethics, but of what they care about.”

What Hubbard – and Columbia Business School – cares about is endowments, reputation and rank. What most MBA candidates care about is whether their shiny degrees can get them a job at graduation. Can the two meet at a confluence of business and social responsibility?

It's anyone's guess.

Related:
Dean Hubbard's Full Interview (
How Many Ethics Courses Does it Take for MBAs to Change Their Ways?
Is Wall Street Nearing Its End?
Harvard's MBA is Changing. But Will It Change Business Culture?
Future of the MBA: A Ranking for Business Schools on Ethics

Filed Under: CSR


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