Are business schools effectively teaching ethics? That’s a good question to ask, especially now. The other day, North Dakota State University’s longtime president, Joseph Chapman (right) resigned amid growing criticism over his expensive new presidential residence. Presidential is the operative word. Cost overruns exceeded $2 million, compared with the original $900,000 that had been budgeted for the project. But the good news doesn’t stop there. The Forum, a Fargo newspaper, reports that the donation-funded NDSU Development Foundation paid $22,000 on a charter flight and hotel bills for Chapman and his family to attend President Obama’s inauguration. (By comparison: University of North Dakota reportedly spent $2,176 to send its president, Robert Kelley, to the inauguration.) No surprise, Chapman resigned the other day. “It just isn’t fun,” he told the Associated Press.
Now consider this: It takes a while for a construction project to balloon over $1 million past its target budget. But it’s only now the board says it will probably — probably — ask for an audit on spending for the president’s house. All of which demonstrates this much: Even well-educated people — because we can assume the board members are — can make choices that in retrospect lacked clear direction or ethics. If this can take place in a university setting, what does this say about the education we provide business students?
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be asking educators from around the country this simple question: Are business schools effectively teaching ethics? Stay tuned.