Harvard Business School will require for the first time that students take an ethics course - marking the latest efforts by universities to help stem the rash of wrongdoings that have hit Wall Street in the past two years.
While Harvard, as well as many other business schools, has offered ethics courses as electives, few have so far made such courses mandatory. Harvard's move, however, may lead others to follow suit.The new course, which begins on Sept. 15, is three weeks long. Thomas Piper, Senior Associate Dean for Educational Programs, said the business school will not only keep a second-year elective course, but will introduce more dicussion of ethics into its regular courses.
Piper said the mandatory course was decided upon after research and discussion with other business schools.
"It is extremely important that ethics are introduced very early . . . in the program," Piper told Reuters. "This is at center of what we're about. These people (students) are trying to set priorities and they will read signals set by institutions."
He said that the school's research suggested that a combination of required classes and discussion in other courses is the best way to show students the importance of good business ethics.
Piper said when schools did not require ethics instruction, "these issues tended to be almost always squeezed out. So we've taken a very broad approach."
In March 1987, the Harvard Business School was given $23 million by John Shad, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to support ethics research. The school said the gift was not related to its decision to begin mandatory ethics courses.
The government's probe of insider trading, which has resulted in charges against a number of men in their 20s and 30s, has led such figures as Rudolph Giuliani, Manhattan U.S. Attorney, to criticize schools for failing to emphasize the importance of ethics.
During a recent business ethics conference in New York, Giuliani, along with educators and business leaders, said schools had to take a stronger role in teaching students right from wrong.
Among those charged in Wall Street's insider trading scandal were two Harvard graduates: Martin Siegel, a former Kidder Peabody vice president, and Ira Sokolow, a former investment banker with Shearson Lehman Brothers.
The scheme came to light in May 1986 when Dennis Levine, a former merger specialist, was charged with insider trading. Levine led authorities to speculator Ivan Boesky.
Piper said the Harvard Business School had been interested in teaching ethics long before the Levine-Boesky scheme was revealed.