Syllabus - Fall 2001
What to expect from this course:
Like other philosophy classes, this one will make you think--probably in some ways that you're not used to. Helping you to think about ethics in business is the main purpose of the course. The course won't make you ethical, or tell you what to do. But it will help you identify and analyze ethical issues in business, and give you some decision-making tools. Judging from past student experience, you will learn a lot and enjoy it.
Business is one of the ruling forces in the modern world. Most of you will make your living in business. But all of you are affected by it. Whether you are an employer, an employee, a client, a customer, a consumer, a shareholder, a board member, or a community resident, good and bad business ethics have an impact on your life. The content of this course is important to you.
How much you gain from this course depends on how actively you participate. You will be involved from the beginning in classroom discussion groups, role-plays, debates, class discussions, reports on readings, and other activities, many of which will require advance preparation on your part. In the final weeks of the course you will be in charge of the class during the presentation of your term project. Your participation in these activities will affect your grade significantly; approach them as you would a business assignment.
I will be more than happy to meet with you at a mutually convenient time. The offices of the Philosophy and Religion department are in Bunce Hall, on the third floor, suite 315. My office hours are Monday and Tuesday, from 2:00 to 3:15 pm. Other times are possible if you can't make these. If you want to be sure of seeing me, during office hours or at another time, please make an appointment. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org . My phone number is 256-4211.
What I will expect from you:
- Attendance: Unless you have a good reason that I approve, or you are sick, you must be here when class meets, and you must come prepared. If you have a problem that will affect your attendance or your performance in the class, speak to me about it when the problem arises. We may be able to work things out. If it turns out the problem is not resolvable (and some aren't), it will be better if you drop the class quickly. Remember that you need my signature in order to drop.
- Reading Assignments. The primary text is Contemporary Issues in Business Ethics, by DesJardins and McCall, published by Wadsworth. It's an anthology of readings, case studies, and introductory essays provided by the editors, with some questions for discussion. For a different point of view, you will also be reading When Corporations Rule the World, by David C. Korten, published by Kumarian Press and Berrett-Koehler Publishers. I will also supplement the text with handouts, and occasionally with materials posted on the web. Do the assigned readings before you come to class! All of the readings are taken from current or recent discussion of ethical issues in business. They are the sort of material that you will need to understand and evaluate when you are responsible, some day, for resolving an ethical issue that faces your company. Be prepared to discuss the readings in class.
Note: Most of you will find the readings harder than what you are accustomed to reading. This course will challenge and improve your reading skills. You are capable of mastering this material, but most of you will need to read it three times, outline it, and use other techniques in order to do well on the reading tests. I will spend some class time giving you "mapping" techniques that will help you. (See "Mapping: A Reading Technique" on the class web-page.) And I will provide reading guides for a selected few of the readings. Work hard at the readings, and if you need help figuring them out beyond what you get in class, speak up. Write down your questions and bring them to class. You may want to try some study groups or other methods to help you with the more difficult assignments. I will help you to master the material in every way that I can. However, if you think you shouldn't have to work this hard for a course that's not a major requirement, please consider dropping the class.
- Participation: This means taking part in class discussions (hard to do well if you haven't read the assignments). It will mean advance preparation for at least one debate or role-play or other class activity in addition to your group project. And of course it will also mean doing your fair share on your group project.
I can't overemphasize how important it is for you to come to class prepared to participate. You have a contribution to make, and both you and the class will benefit from your making it. But you won't be able to make it well unless you keep up with the work. "I don't understand this reading" counts as a contribution, especially if you can point to some specific things you didn't understand. "I didn't do this reading" does not count as a contribution!
Tests and Assignments:
- There will be occasional short in-class writing assignments connected with assigned readings, and there will be three reading tests.
- The three reading tests (see dates and deadlines, below) will cover all lectures, readings and class discussions prior to presentation of your term projects. The third reading test is the final exam.
- Calculation of your grade: Your debate, your class participation, and the reading tests make up sixty percent of your grade. The other forty percent comes from your term project.
- Preparation and presentation of a term project (see attached guidelines). You and three or four of your classmates will make an analysis of a particular case in business ethics. This will be your major assignment, and forty percent of your grade. You will work on it throughout the semester, and I will periodically collect, review and comment on your work. Dates for the stages of this assignment are listed below. The quality of your final project depends heavily on how much you do throughout the semester, not just in the last month, and especially on how much I see and comment on and how much you revise and edit prior to the final product. For this reason I will be very strict about these deadlines. Each time your group misses one, your project grade will drop You will make an in class presentation based on your work; and you will hand in a written report, which is due on the last day of class. A rough draft is due two weeks prior to your presentation date.
YOUR FIRST ASSIGNMENT is to sign up for the group project you would like to work on. Be ready to do this on September 12. I will give you some ideas during our first meeting.
Introduction: "Business Ethics--Isn't that a Contradiction in Terms?" (First session)
I. Ethics and Business Ethics (2 sessions) Assigned readings, pp. 1-24, completed by January 30; and pp. 24-72, completed by February 6. Also, Clowney, "Three Perspectives on Business Ethics", completed by January 30, and When Corporations Rule the World (WCRW), pp. 1-56, completed by February 6.)
A. Ethical Theory and Business Practice
B. Milton Friedman and the Social Responsibility of Business
1® DEBATE: Friedman's Invisible Hands vs. Korten's Bleeding Hearts. Must a good business manager be a Friedmanite? (2/20 - volunteers)II. Corporations, Responsibility, and the "Free Market" (1 ½ classes). Read pp. 72-103, and WCRW, pp. 61-120, by 2/27.
III. The Ethics of Work and Management (3 classes). Read pp. 103-188 by 3/6, pp. 188-305 by 3/13) Additional readings: Parker & Slaughter, "Management by Stress"; "The Nike Heel" (handout); Levering, "How Management Gets in the Way"; WCRW, 123-229, all by 3/27.
2® LABOR-MANAGEMENT DEBATE: THE UAW TRIES TO ORGANIZE A NON-UNION AUTO PLANT. 3/27 - volunteers)
IV. Corporations and Consumers (2 classes). Read pp. 305-349 by 4/3; 349-404 by 4/10). Also WCRW, 233-284, by 4/10.
A. Product Liability and Safety (Case studies)
B. Advertising ethics
3® ADVERTISING SHOW AND TELL (4/10 - volunteers)
V. Corporations and Society (two classes). WCRW, pp. 287-342, completed by 4/17. Other readings to be assigned, completed by 4/24)
A. Corporations and the Environment
B. Multinational Corporations and Global ethics
VI. Group presentations, April 24.
Relevant Dates and Deadlines
Academic Honesty Policy
Violations of the college's academic honesty policy will result in failure for the assignment in question, and may cause you to fail the course. Check your student handbook, and if you have any questions, ask me.Enjoy the course!