To counter the slide of business ethics corporate scandals, a new UCSB course offers students insight into proper practices and corporate reform.
The newly created Religious Studies 190EL: Ethics, Enterprise and Leadership opened this quarter with funds from a $265,000 endowment from former Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Henry Schimberg. Schimberg donated the money to UCSB’s Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion and Public Life.
“The repeated and persistent pattern of scandal involving ethics and business in America suggests we are not doing an adequate job in preparing young people to assume position of leadership in our society,” Capps Center Associate Director Leonard Wallock said. “Happily, the endowment will ensure that this course is offered each year in years to come.”
As part of the endowment, former tobacco industry executive Jeffrey Wigand – who now specializes in tobacco industry reform – will give a free public lecture tonight at 8 p.m. in Victoria Hall.
Professor Laurie Harris, who teaches the class, said Schimberg donated the money to ensure that students received a proper education in business ethics.
“[Schimberg] has an enlightened view,” Harris said. “He wants to teach the future how to conduct themselves in an ethical way. His hope is to create great leaders.”
Wallock said Schimberg suggested the creation of the class a year ago. The course meets Tuesdays from 3 to 5:50 p.m. in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building.
After deciding the focus of the class, Wallock said Harris, a lawyer and visiting professor, was asked to create the curriculum for the course because of her past experience teaching ethics classes.
“[Harris] had a stellar reputation for courses on global business ethics and also ethical decision making for the environment,” Wallock said. “We were extraordinarily impressed by the caliber of recommendations by students attending those courses.”
The seminar includes discussions from a variety of discourses, including philosophy and religion, as they apply to the modern ethical business world, Harris said. Included in these topics are the relationship between business choices and their effects on society, as well as corporate social responsibilities.
Harris said the seminar also includes case studies and weekly guest speakers. Topics for the case studies include examining the Wal-Mart corporation and Petroleum Fund of Norway, while Schimberg and U.S. Representative Lois Capps are expected to visit the class as guest speakers.
Harris said 33 people showed up to the 25-person seminar on the first day of class last Tuesday. She said she hopes her students will avoid the pitfalls several unethical corporate executives have found themselves in.
“[I hope my students] find it easier to make ethical decisions when they need to,” Harris said. “[They] will become more ethically capable.”