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Current Business Students Have Higher Ethical Attitudes Than 1980's Counterparts

Oct. 7, 2002

 Contrary to the "greed is good" business climate of the 1980's, business students nowadays are significantly more disapproving of questionable ethical situations, according to research done at Baylor University.

Dr. Tisha Nakao Emerson, assistant professor of economics at Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, and Dr. Stephen Conroy, assistant professor at the University of West Florida, completed analysis comparing current business students' ethical attitudes with those of business students in 1985.  The results showed a noteworthy shift in attitudes, indicating that current business students have become more stringent about ethics.

"Recent ethical breeches by corporate governors at the highest levels have called into question whether ethical attitudes have actually changed since the 'corporate raider' scandals of the mid-1980's," says Emerson.  "The results show important changes in many areas."

Respondents were presented with 15 ethical vignettes.  In sixty percent of these, attitudes showed significant differences between 1985 and 2001.  Vignettes that were rated as less acceptable in 2001 included:

  • padding expense accounts

  • environmental pollution

  • failure to uphold fiduciary obligation by stockbroker

  • tax evasion

  • bribery of foreign official

  • intentional production design flaws

  • sexual discrimination, and

  • software copyright violations.

The only vignette meeting with increased acceptability in 2001 was the hiring of a competitor's employee to discover information.

For the complete article detailing the findings of this research, visit Baylor's business web site at http://business.baylor.edu/web/DEPT/COMM&MKT/Ethics1.doc.

For more information, Dr. Tisha Nakao Emerson can be reached directly at 254-710-4180 or by email at Tisha_Nakao@baylor.edu.

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