Keynote speaker gives Ethos week controversy

March 15-19, Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business will host the fourth installment of its annual lecture series on business ethics.

Ethos Week, in conjunction with the Ethos Statement developed in 2006 by COB faculty, aims to explore the six values laid out in the Statement: integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, respect, learning and work ethic.

All lectures except the closing luncheon will be free and open to the public.

The Ethos Statement is considered a key component of COB curriculum; a copy of it is attached to every course’s syllabus and 5-by-12 foot signed banners from past Ethos Weeks are permanently displayed in the COB building.

There will be seven speakers, including former vice president of Procter and Gamble, Mary Anne Gale; managing director of Jefferson Wells, Daniel Saint; and former vice president of Intel, Ken Fine. They will give lectures on ethics in international business, corporate social responsibility and ethics in information technology.

“They’ll draw from personal and professional experience, and tie their advice into what students may experience in the work world,” said COB Dean David Mielke.

Robert Bobb, current emergency financial manager for the Detroit Public School system, is the keynote speaker for the series who will speak at the closing luncheon.

Appointed in Oct. 2009 by Governor Jennifer Granholm, Bobb was tasked with reorganizing the underfunded system.

“I think he’s an excellent example for our students for really pursuing ethics,” said Mielke. “He’s cleaning up some of the fraud and abuse that’s been occurring for a long time.”

Mielke declined to comment on the two ethics lawsuits currently pending against Bobb. The Detroit Public School Board filed the most recent Monday night after a unanimous vote. The lawsuit concerns the terms of Bobb’s new contract, under which he is set to receive $145,000 in private support from philanthropic groups that support charter schools.

This would be a direct violation of state laws prohibiting public officials from receiving gifts or other perks that could influence their policy decisions.

The board also filed the other ongoing case, which began this past summer. The case claims he has overstepped his authority in handing down academic decisions. The board said Bobb required held-back students to advance to the next grade level, despite teacher recommendations saying those students are not socially or academically ready to do so.

EMU students were largely unaware of Mr. Bobb’s pending ethics scandals.

Cody Waters, an MBA student specializing in non-profit organization, said, “You can almost guarantee that at the luncheon, he’ll be approached with those questions, and he’ll have to be able to answer them.”

“I work specifically with volunteers, and I’m interested in what’s deemed appropriate,” Waters said of his interest in Ethos Week, and in business ethics.

The events are an important component of the COB’s mission of educating future business leaders and attendance may earn COB students extra credit in their courses. All lectures will be held from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and from 5:30-6:30 p.m., March 16-18, in room 114 of the COB. The closing luncheon will be held 1-2:30 p.m. on March 19 in the Student Center Ballroom.

For more information, visit the College of Business Web site.

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