When Conan O’Brien addressed the graduates of Dartmouth College at the 2011 commencement ceremony, he jokingly said that all MBA students should immediately be transferred to a white collar prison. We’ve all heard stories about Wall Street greed and many of those responsible for the 2008 Wall Street collapse hold MBAs from Ivy League schools. So what are business schools doing to try to combat this image and to instill in its graduates a moral compass? Well, at Harvard Business School, students have an option to take an oath in which they pledge they’ll serve the greater good and not be driven by the potential for personal gain.
In a way, this pledge for Harvard MBA grads is kind of like the Hippocratic Oath for MDs. And Harvard is not alone in increasing ethical discourse among MBA programs. According to the “New York Times,” “A decade ago, Wharton had one or two professors who taught a required ethics class. Today there are seven teaching an array of ethics classes that…were among the most popular at the school. Since 1997, it has had the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research. In addition, over the last five years, students have formed clubs around the issues of ethics that sponsor conferences, work on microfinance projects in Philadelphia or engage in social impact consulting.”
It’s also interesting to note that in 2009, only 160 out of 800 graduating Harvard MBAs agreed to uphold the oath. We’d be interested to see if those figures have changed in the last two years because that only marks 20% of graduates who agreed to the oath. Check out the “New York Times” article by Leslie Wayne on Harvard MBAs and take a look at our blog on Harvard MBA Admission.