The MBA Oath of Ethical Conduct 'a moving experience'
One Faculty Member's Take on a New Tradition
July 11, 2012
By Bob Radin, lecturer
The MBA Oath of Ethical Conduct ceremony brings many of the graduating full-time and part-time management students together at the close of the academic year to proclaim their commitment to be ethical members of the broader management professionals’ community when they leave the Carroll School of Management.
The business school oath began as a grassroots effort by MBA students at a number of graduate programs nationwide in response to the continuing cycle of ethical violations that have undermined confidence in corporations, CEO’s and management education. The oath was first conducted at the Boston College Carroll School of Management in 2011. While ethical thinking is integrated into our coursework, the ceremony serves as a formal declaration: the students make a verbal and written commitment to uphold those lessons for the remainder of their careers.
In the management courses I teach, we discuss and debate the ethical challenges that business students will face upon graduation. While no course can cover all possible ethical challenges, management education provides both a deeper understanding of the complex issues and also a decision process that considers a wider range of questions. In my classes, we also debate the intent of the MBA oath and whether it has an impact when those difficult choices arise. These classroom debates are always spirited with two opposing views on the value of taking an oath. There is no simple answer to this question. However, a large number of Boston College graduates have volunteered to take the oath over the past two years and I have had the privilege to observe the ceremony.
Each of us can reflect on our lives and recall inspirational moments or inflection points when our worldview was forever changed. These moments shape our thinking and influence our behaviors long after that moment has passed. I believe the oath ceremony is one of those moments for our students and this observation has been validated by participants and other faculty members in attendance. It is a moving experience to sit in the audience and hear eighty students commit to be ethical managers and embrace the core values of the graduate school of management for the remainder of their lifetime.
The presence and comments of Father Leahy, university president, and Bob Winston, benefactor of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, further validate this commitment and the importance of the moment. At the ceremony on May 17th, Bob Winston shared stories about the ethical challenges he faced during a storied career in the mutual funds industry concluding his remarks by saying, “Each of you will have a chance to make a significant contribution and can make a difference in your lifetime. I believe that you will look back on this ceremony as one of the defining moments of your life.” I share his view and hope for our graduates.
Bob Radin is a lecturer for the Graduate Programs at the Carroll School of Management. His courses include “Managing People and Organizations” and “Boards and CEOS: Governing America’s Businesses.”