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Corporate Compliance Officer Talks to Students

Nov. 18, 2004

By Erin Goff

As part of the Business Ethics Forum, corporate visitors spoke in various business classes on Thursday, November 4.  Janie Duncan, Senior Manager, Corporate Compliance of Health Care Service Corporation (HSCS) talked to Professor Green’s Principles of Microeconomics class about the importance of ethics in business.

Duncan began by defining ethics as “a system of values and specific moral choices, a principle of right.”  She explained to students that ethics is something that most people learn from their parents, peers and the organizations they belong to.  During her presentation Duncan challenged students by asking them what they would do in certain situations. 

“The speaker made me think about what I would do in a situation involving a tough ethical decision,” sophomore Business major Chazz Campbell said.  “Her real life examples made me think about how I would handle those situations.” 

When asked whether or not they would give someone the test questions for a future test, the overall student response was no.  When asked whether they would give another student notes for the test, the response of the class was a little more varied.

“Sometimes there’s not a definite right or wrong,” Duncan said.  “The decisions most people have to face in the business world today are gray.”  To illustrate some of the gray areas in ethics, Duncan presented three real life situations that involved a person’s medical records, a personal email account, and viewing pornographic images at work.  The ethical choices in the case studies were discussed by Duncan and the students.

“The speaker challenged us with realistic situations we may encounter in the business world,” sophomore International Business major Kate Kirkland said.  “We know what the right thing to do is, but she made us ask ourselves whether or not we would actually do the right thing.”

Duncan talked about her company, HSCS, as an example of a business who maintains their integrity during tough situations. 

“I gained an insight into what goes on in a company and whether or not I would want a job like Duncan’s,” Campbell said. 

Duncan explained the compliance program that HSCS developed and how they pride themselves on integrity, responsibility, mutual respect and corporate citizenship, which Duncan called core values to fall back on when there’s not a rule in place. 

“Most companies are always trying to push the edge,” Duncan said.  “HSCS tries to hold a higher standard above the law, while building an ethical corporate culture.”

Duncan described the HSCS compliance program and encouraged students to ask questions during an interview about a company’s compliance program.  Other things Duncan told students to look for when interviewing was who the compliance officer was, where they were located in the structure of the organization, if there were training tools for the program and if the company had a corporate integrity hotline. 

“Ethics is a big part of business that is not regularly emphasized, but is very important,” Kirkland said.

Duncan also gave reasons why it’s important for a company to build and maintain an ethical culture.

“It’s not just about being successful and making good corporate decisions,” Duncan said.  “It’s about giving our employers the tools to do a good job.”   

At the end of the presentation, Duncan answered student questions and encouraged students to attend other events of the Business Ethics Forum.            


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