by Con Chapman
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio. The financial scandals of the past decade caused the nation’s business school to reflect on their mission as one M.B.A. after another marched up courthouse steps holding hands with a blonde trophy wife, only to exit out the back door escorted by a burly court bailiff.
“Business schools nationwide went through a prolonged period of soul-searching,” says Dean Morton Weiner of Waldmore University’s Kagler School of Business here. “We ran some spreadsheet software and discovered we were neglecting something called ‘ethics.’”
And so Kagler, like many graduate schools of business, added both introductory and upper-level courses in business ethics to their graduation requirements, setting off head scratching among liberal arts faculty on the Waldmore campus. “’Business ethics,’” drawls English Professor Charles Widmer. “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
But Dean Weiner was determined to pursue the new initiative with the utmost seriousness and made a letter grade of “B” or above in the courses a graduation requirement. “A lot of schools are satisfied with a pass/fail standard, but not us,” he notes proudly as he dusts pipe tobacco off his tattersall vest. “Pass-fail is for septic tanks, not something as important as ethics.”
The new regime of rigor has rubbed B-school students the wrong way, however, with many fearful that failure will stand in the way of a six-figure entry-level job that would be theirs with an MBA degree.
In an off-campus student bar, several wannabe captains of industry share their frustration with this reporter.
“It’s not fair,” says Scott Oliver, who decided to attend Waldmore after his 2.9999999 GPA from the University of Illinois didn’t impress admissions departments at more prestigious schools. “I paid $200 to apply, plus the GMATs, gas and a U-Haul to move here when I got in. I should get a refund if they’re going to make honesty a graduation requirement.”
So Oliver and some of his more tech-savvy fellow students are fighting back, using pod slurping techniques to ferret out test questions before an upcoming midterm exam this month.
“What you need to do is find a network endpoint,” say Sahil Gupta, a graduate of Bangalore Polytechnic Institute who majored in computer science, as he uses his mouse to scoot a cursor around the screen of his laptop. “These professors are so old-school, it is like taking chutney from a baby!” he exclaims as he finds a portal to use to gain access to documents on the B-school’s network.
But, this reporter asks as he watches the high-tech snooping operation in progress, isn’t there something ironic about cheating on an ethics exam?
The members of the study group turn with looks of perplexity on their faces. “If we were into irony,” notes Oliver, “We would have been English majors.”