February 2011 - I had heard from all different sources that Business Law and Ethics was one of two things: a waste of time or an easy-peasy required course. Essentially filler, either way. But this class has really opened my eyes to the process of ethical decision making. And it’s not some ‘pie in the sky’ method that doesn’t seem realistic or feasible. It’s something that’s been an epiphany because it’s probably one of the most useful pieces of information I’ve received in my college career.
For the FIRST time in my life, I was validated on how difficult ethical decisions really are. I thought I was just making things harder than they were or at its worst, a magnet for unethical behavior. I had always heard the advice to trust your gut, but during one of our lectures Dr. Whisenant said it was much more complex than that, and stated, “sometimes even with the best intentions, we make unethical decisions. It takes more rigor to prevent that and that’s why we have these ethical lenses to help.” The light came shining down, and I felt for the first time I had a practical course of action on my side to help me combat these tricky ethical dilemmas. I feel like the ethical training I received during my onboarding was seriously lacking. How could a 1-hour passive lecture constitute as training to engender ethical behavior? It shocks me to this moment. Ethical dilemmas are ones where the result of any decisions lead to more ethical dilemmas. It’s not a pessimistic outcome however; there are certain things that can be done to try to prevent being in an ethical dilemma or minimizing the damage and ultimately, safeguarding your reputation.
I know that ethics will require an entire lifetime of learning and re-learning, just like being engaged with my health and nutrition. Writing our case reports have been invaluable exercises, because instead of just saying, George should not be a consultant and work for his original company, it has forced me to look inwardly and explain why, and all of the reasons for and against. I found a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders with this methodology and weapon to protect myself. I don’t know what course my peers took when I described it above, but it really changed my perspective and outlook on business ethics. I’m not cynical about it and I’m hopeful that I have the tools to be smart to navigate these tricky waters. It’s really a shame to hear about all of the unethical decision making processes that happen.
For example, the student I’m tutoring mentioned he was taking a group exam and that it was okay because everyone takes the exam and helps each other out during it. A red flag immediately shot off in my head since this subject is in my mind frequently; this was clearly unethical. I explained my position and that I was not behind him in taking this group exam – he was shocked clearly but I am glad that I said it because I know in the past, I would have simply condoned it. This course would definitely be valuable to everyone attending a university.