Social and Ethical Issues in Business

May 11, 2001

College of Business Administration
Meets: T 4:00-6:40 pm, BA 342
Schedule Number: 22315
Instructor: Assoc. Professor Craig P. Dunn, Ph.D.
Office: SS 3105
Office Hours: 3:00-4:00 pm T and by appointment

Ethics of various issues in business, including social responsibility, environmental protection, privacy, individual rights, occupational safety and health, product liability, equality of opportunity, and the morality of capitalism.

What is the corporation? Do corporations–and more particularly the managers who represent them–have any responsibilities beyond seeking to maximize shareholder wealth? Is the term “business ethics” an oxymoron? What is the source of moral truth? These and other related questions provide the ‘grist’ for this course.

This course is designed to be a challenging and exciting course for the undergraduate business student. Two major themes will provide direction throughout the semester: business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Most of your prior business coursework has been concerned with highly structured topics closely related to a well-developed body of theory; not so with business ethics/corporate social responsibility. There is not a specific set of skills serving to lead you through the course, and no unifying meta-theory to inform your decisions. The problems and issues of business ethics/corporate social responsibility embrace the entire spectrum of business and management disciplines. Many variables and situational factors must be dealt with at once; weighing the “pros and cons” of a particular course of action necessitates a total enterprise perspective.

This course has been included in your business school curriculum in order to stress the appropriateness of moral judgement as a central component of business decision making. The overriding pedagogical objective is to sharpen your abilities to think critically and to diagnose situations from a moral perspective. Accomplishing this objective entails introducing you to a broad range of ethical frameworks. Application of such models of moral reasoning necessarily takes account of the complexities and constraints imposed by the environment in which the firm operates, why the environment must be attended to, and how it affects the moral character of decisions. Social theory will also be explored as the role of the corporation in creating the “good society” is examined.

In addition to this rather ambitious charter, the student will be required to articulate and defend his/her perspective on organizational reality; i.e., whose interests count, for how much, and on what basis are such interests (and only such interests) relevant to the business manager?


1. To increase your understanding of the tasks of the “ideal’ manager;
2. To develop the capacity to identify salient moral issues and to reason carefully about ethical options;
3. To build skills in conducting ethical analysis in ‘messy’ situations;
4. To improve your ability to manage organizational processes;
5. To integrate and extend upon the knowledge gained in earlier business courses;
6. To convince the student of the essential role of corporate social responsibility in the conduct of business enterprise;
7. To apply and/or implement the principles and concepts of moral reasoning through both case analysis and social change programs; and
8. To better equip the student to integrate his/her personal ethical ideal with a successful managerial career.

A maximum of 1000 points may be accumulated in this course. Point distribution varies as follows (see grading contract at back of syllabus for details):

Term Paper 150-250 points
Midterm Exam 200-300 points
Final Exam 200-300 points
Social Change Project 250-350 points

University grading policy SDSU III-C-1 states “”faculty members are expected to use all grades from A to F to distinguish among level of academic accomplishment… the grade for average undergraduate achievement is C.” For a class of 50 students, and assuming a ‘normal’ grade distribution, application of this policy would result in approximately 3 grades of A, 12 grades of B, 20 grades of C, 12 grades of D, and 3 grades of F. The following University-wide grading standards will be used to determine your final course grade. Students are responsible for monitoring their own progress throughout the semester.

A 930 – 1000 points
A- 900 – 929 points
B+ 865 – 899 points
B 830 – 864 points
B- 800 – 829 points
C+ 765 – 799 points
C 730 – 764 points
C- 700 – 729 points
D+ 665 – 699 points
D 630 – 664 points
D- 600 – 629 points

“Plagiarism is formal work publicly misrepresented as original; it is any activity wherein a person knowingly, directly, and for lucre, status, recognition, or any public gain resorts to the published or unpublished work of another in order to represent it as one’s own. Work shall be deemed plagiarism: (1) when prior work of another has been demonstrated as the accessible source; (2) when substantial or material parts of the source have been literally or evasively appropriated (substance denoting quantity; matter denoting qualitative format or style); and (3) when the work lacks sufficient or unequivocal citation so as to indicate or imply that the work was neither a copy nor an imitation. This definition comprises oral, written, and crafted pieces. In short, if one purports to present an original piece but copies ideas word for word or by paraphrase, those ideas should be duly noted;” (Lindey, Alexander, Plagiarism and Originality, 1952; as cited in San Diego State University 1992-93 Graduate Bulletin).

“Wittingly or willfully to ignore or to allow students’ ascription of others’ work to themselves is to condone dishonesty, to deny the purpose of formal education, and to fail the public trust;
Accordingly, one who is suspected or accused of disregarding, concealing, aiding, or committing plagiarism…must be liable to an appropriate penalty, even severance from the University…should the demonstrated plagiarism clearly call into question one’s general competence or accomplishments” (San Diego State University 1992-93 Graduate Bulletin).
Students involved in plagiarism (including ´cheating’) on any MGT 356 coursework will receive a failing grade for the course.

‘. . .my spirit never walked beyond our counting house. . .[It] never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole.’
‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge.
‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. . .’
-Jacob Marley
A Christmas Carol
(Charles Dickens)

Two texts are assigned: The Elements of Moral Philosophy (Rachels) and Moral Mazes (Jackall). In addition, one supplementary text is available: The Ethics of Management (Hosmer). Copies of these texts are available at the reserve desk of the main library. Students are expected to read each assigned chapter before the scheduled lecture for that chapter. Assigned case studies and supplementary reading materials will also be placed on reserve in the library, and course videos will be available from the instructor. Students will be provided social change project abstracts for end-of-term presentations by their class colleagues.

Two exams will be given, covering assigned texts as well as class lectures and/or group presentations. The exams will include short essay, multiple choice, true/false and fill-in questions. The midterm exam will cover the introductory lectures as well as Rachel’s text; the final exam will encompass concluding lectures, Jackall’s book, as well as the team project presentations.

A term paper will be submitted by each student. In this paper each student is required to articulate and defend his/her perspective on the question of whose interests you represent as a manager and on what basis such interests (and only such interests) are relevant for the business manager. Reasons for the position taken should rely upon moral and social philosophy. Attention should be given to consideration of how your view can be defended, using the theories introduced in the course.
The “stakeholder” framework will prove particularly relevant to this assignment (this framework will be covered in lecture during the first three class sessions). Defense of the position taken, rather than the position itself, is of fundamental importance. It is recognized, however, that certain positions are inherently more “defensible;” therefore, the choice of relevant organizational constituencies will have a direct impact upon the ease with which this paper is completed. Text documentation (either from assigned texts or ‘outside’ readings) will be appropriate. Term projects shall be typed using double-spacing. There is no page length requirement for this assignment; however, conciseness will be one of the evaluation criterion. Typed drafts of your term project may be submitted for comment any time prior to the final calendar month of the course. A self-evaluation of this project (available at mgt356.termpapereval.html) is to be submitted along with the final paper draft. A preliminary one-page typed outline for this assignment is due sometime mid-term.

“Greed, for want of a better term, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed in all of its forms-greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge-has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
-Gordon Gecko
Oliver Stone’s Wall Street

Three to four member groups are to implement a social change program within an organization of their choosing. This could include a wide range of options, from instituting a recycling program at a community business to convincing local hotel management to make excess room capacity available to the homeless to workplace AIDS education program implementation (for sample descriptions from past semesters, search the classes website) While the group is to strive for effective implementation of their plan, the grade for this assignment is not entirely dependent on the success of the change program.

The group is to give an account of their project to the class. This debriefing is to include: (1) an overview of the social change program; (2) ethical and social reasons for its importance; and (3) an assessment of both the degree of success of the intervention as well as the reasons for the program’s success or failure.

Written project documentation (e.g., copies of correspondence between group members and their chosen organization) must be provided.

A two-page executive summary of the project in both hard copy as well as electronic format, as well as written project documentation (e.g., copies of correspondence between group members and their chosen organization, e-mail and phone logs, etc.), plus copies of all reflective journals (see below), must be provided at the time of presentation. Written monthly project ‘progress reports’ will be due the first class session of each month.

Additionally, each group member is to keep a reflective journal on at least a weekly basis, chronicling: (1) their assessment of the project’s successes and failures; (2) their interpretation of how the project can be linked to the theories presented in the course and texts; as well as (3) their personal impressions regarding how the project has transformed their thinking around social and ethical issues in business.

Group reporting will take the form of a 20 minute oral presentation followed by a 15 minute question and answer session. Be creative. Prepare the analysis as if you were presenting the information to the top management team of your company or any other fitting audience you explicitly identify, to be role-played by those students not in your group (who will be accountable for posing relevant questions to the presenting group).

Areas considered (in addition to those previously or subsequently mentioned) in grading the team case project:

    • adequacy of analysis


    • clarity and conciseness of arguments


    • use of ethical and social theory to support arguments


    • appropriateness of intervention


    • comprehensiveness of intervention


    • success of intervention


    • professionalism of presentation


    creativity of presentation

Outlined above are the course activities available to students. Ranges of possible points have been listed above. Each student is to fill out and return to the instructor a binding contract for work to be completed this session (see attachment 3…due the fourth week of class). You are to fill out the number of points desired for each activity. The total number of points must total 1000. Points for each activity will range from 20-35% of the course grade, depending upon the individual assignment and weightings. Points must be selected in increments of 50.
For example, a student may choose to maximize the points on the social change project by completing all other coursework at close to the minimum points possible, for respective point totals of 150-250-250 (note that in this example the total for the team case project would be 350, or 35% of the course grade).

Term Paper 150 points
Midterm Exam 250 points
Final Exam 250 points
Social Change Project 350 points
In all cases, class participation is mandatory. Failure to attend scheduled class sessions will be reflected in final course grading.

To send your MGT 356 contract, fill out the following form thoroughly and completely. This form must be submitted electronically. A signed copy of each contract will be returned to the submitting student by the end of the fourth week of class.

Management 356 Contract:

The following agreement is entered into by the designated MGT 356 student and Professor Dunn for work to be completed Spring session, 2000. It is understood that this agreement is not subject to change. Additionally, course participation (or lack thereof) may be reflected in final course grading.

First Name: Last Name:
Student ID: —
Complete E-mail Address:
Point Objective for Term Paper:
Point Objective for Midterm Examination:
Point Objective for Final Examination:
Point Objective for Team Project:

Please make certain the above point objectives total 1000.
By sending this form, you agree to be evaluated on the basis of this contract as well as by the terms of the course as outlined in this syllabus.

School: San Diego State University
Professor: Assoc. Professor Craig P. Dunn, Ph.D.
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