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BUDV 305 Business Ethics Course Guide

Course Description

Business Ethics. 3 Credits. An examination of ethics in business and work. Among the topics to be addressed are: recognizing and analyzing ethical issues in business; promoting ethical behavior in corporations and institutions; the social responsibilities of business; the role of business in a free market economy; ethics in the global economy; the role of the professions in contemporary American society. Prerequisite: Junior standing.


Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Recognize, analyze, and decide ethical issues in business.
  • Develop critical learning skills (i.e., skills in presenting and evaluating ethical arguments).
  • Learn how to promote ethical behavior in the organizations in which they will work.
  • Analyze the impact of American culture and basic principles of social psychology on business ethics.


Course Outline1

  • What business ethics is and is not.
  • The reasons for studying business ethics.
  • Principles of ethical decision-making.

                o Ethical relativism.

                o The consequences approach (utilitarianism)

                o The rights approach (deontology)

                o The virtue or character approach

                o The justice approach.

  • Developing an ethical culture in a company or institution.
  • The role of corporations in a free-market economy and the principle of corporate social responsibility.
  • Business ethics in a global economy.
  • U.S. culture, social psychology, and business ethics.

 1Please note that teachers are not expected to address these topics in the precise order set forth here.


Recommended Teaching Methodology

A course in business ethics can be taught in a number of ways. Different professors will have different approaches. The size of the course and the background of the students will also be relevant in choosing an approach. Nevertheless, this course will always include basic training in the principles of ethical decision-making; the analysis of case studies (short or long) in light of these principles; analysis of how companies can create an ethical corporate culture; examination of the role of corporations in a free-market economy and the concept of corporate social responsibility; examination of broader trends and pressures that impact business ethics (e.g., the influence of the wider American culture on business ethics; principles of social psychology that are particularly relevant to business ethics, such as obedience to authority and role morality).

Since this is a course that seeks to develop student critical reasoning skills, lecture should be minimized. Short lectures are certainly appropriate but the focus should be on discussion and on the analysis of real-life or hypothetical cases. The particular cases to be studied will depend on the interests of the professor and students, issues that are being debated in the media at the time, etc. Some professors may choose to use works of literature as well, for these can function as extended case studies (consider, e.g., Arthur Miller’s All My Sons). Movies can also be analyzed (e.g., Wall Street). It will be helpful to access the web pages of corporations to analyze their mission statements, offices of ethics, corporate social responsibility reports, etc. It will also be helpful to bring into the classroom business ethics issues that are currently being debated in the media.


Recommended Assessment Measures

Teachers may employ a variety of assessment measures. In-class exams, short homework papers, and occasional quizzes might be employed. Some assessment measures should definitely be used: written papers (including analysis of cases) and oral presentations (which might entail classroom discussion, individual or team reports, etc.).


Statement of Expectations

The student will leave this course with an understanding of what business ethics is, what kinds of issues it deals with, and how business ethics issues can be analyzed. The goal is not unanimity of opinion—on almost all issues in this course, there will be genuine disagreement about the appropriate answer. The goal is to learn how to analyze these questions and how to be able to justify one’s answer in rational terms.

Students should expect to come to class ready to discuss the readings. They should expect to do a substantial amount of writing. They should expect to spend about three hours a week in class and about six hours a week in studying and preparing assignments.


Prerequisite Knowledge and Skills

Junior standing is required. This ensures that students will have some background in critical reading, writing, and oral presentation.


Institutional Mechanism for Providing Feedback for Continuous Quality Improvement

Professors will evaluate each student based upon the course knowledge and skills as set out above under “Learning Objectives” and as set out in the syllabus for the course. The teacher will assess student performance under the various assessment measures being used, will identify any deficiencies, and will make appropriate changes in the substance of the course, teaching methods, assessment measures, etc., as warranted.