Yale SOM on the Fence About MBA Ethics Pledge

The MBA Oath has gained further traction among top business schools with the recent naming of Nitin Nohria as Harvard Business School‘s new dean. But not every elite B-school is on board with the formal pledge to “create value responsibly and ethically.”

In a recent post on the Yale SOM Community Blog, To Oath or Not to Oath, blogger Morgan explains that although organizations such as the Aspen Institute and Net Impact have strong ties to both the SOM and the Oath Project, the school has decided not to join the cause…for now.

“Last week, I organized a town hall meeting to discuss the possibilities and limitations of the Business Oath,” Morgan writes. ” Some 60 students and half a dozen faculty, including Dean Oster, spent their lunch hour discussing the oath’s merits and risks.  We didn’t reach a consensus, so we won’t join, nor formally oppose the Business Oath.  Future classes may decide to take a stance, but for now, the conversation has begun, and individuals can sign or not as they see fit.”

Here are some concerns that Yale SOM students and faculty have with a business oath:

  • Will B-schools and individuals use the Oath as a way to demonstrate a commitment to ethics without taking the more difficult steps to actually reform their curricula or businesses?
  • Will individuals feel falsely “inoculated” by the Oath, leaving them ill-prepared to deal with situational challenges that make choices difficult?
  • What is the point of an Oath without some kind of enforcement mechanism?
  • Is a “business oath” meaningless to many SOM students who aspire to be leaders in non-business careers?

The MBA Oath project may be just the start of a larger ethics overhaul in management education, in which case Morgan writes that the SOM should participate wholeheartedly and push the conversation to a deeper attention on business ethics.

For now though, the school is in a wait-and-see mode.

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