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COURSE NAME: "Business Ethics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session II 2024

INSTRUCTOR: Steven Joseph Woodworth
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 1:30-3:20 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Philosophy or Junior Standing. Co-requisite: EN 110
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course examines some of the most important ethical issues in business today, such as businesses’ responsibilities to workers, consumers, and investors, the pros and cons of “free markets,” the challenges posed by environmental damage and automation, the ideas of “social” responsibilities and “ethical” consumption, and the special dilemmas faced by multinational businesses. Issues will be studied through a selection of contemporary cases, issues, arguments, and approaches, along with much class discussion, with the aim of helping students to develop a familiarity with the issues and debates and their ability to discuss, reflect on, and defend their own ethical views.

The course is divided into the following parts:

--- Part I [week 1]: Introduction and what we are doing when we do business ethics.

--- Part II [week 2]: The justification of markets and business practices, and the relation between policy, business, and justice.

--- Part III [weeks 3-4]: Various topics in business ethics, including compensation, advertising, consumerism, meaningful work, workplace discrimination, globalization, sustainability, and corporate culture.

---Part IV [week 5]: Course conclusion and a framework for change.

In this course you will:
--- gain proficiency in the tools and techniques of ethical theory, especially as applied to topics of business and the market;
--- deepen your understanding of what markets are and when they are ethically problematic;
--- come to recognize, articulate, and analyze ethical challenges facing business managers, employees, and consumers;
--- develop a solid grasp of the main existing frameworks for ethical decision-making within a managerial, business environment;
--- cogently express your thoughts pertaining to the course material orally and in written forms, in both individual and group contexts.

Course participationClasses will involve a mixture of lectures, seminar discussions, small group work, debates, and other activities. The emphasis will be on helping you to develop your own opinions and arguments and your ability to discuss them with others, as well as your understanding of the materials, issues, and relevant ethical concepts and arguments. Your active involvement in discussions and other class activities, based on adequate preparation outside class, is therefore essential.30
Weekly homework assignmentsEach week there will be a homework assignment due Sunday by 3 p.m. The assignments will comprise three questions: reading comprehension questions, a personal reflection exercise, and, on weeks when there is no exam, an essay question. I will provide further guidance in class.30
Midterm examQuestions for the midterm exam will be distributed before the start of week three. The questions will cover material from the first half of the course. You'll be provided a small selection of these questions from which you'll choose one at the exam.20
Final examQuestions for the final exam will be distributed before the start of week five. The questions will center on material from the second half of the course. You'll be provided a small selection of these questions from which you'll choose one at the exam.20

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Students are expected to come to class prepared for the day's material. It is highly recommended that Students attend all classes given that the material is comprehensive by nature. Attendance will be considered in your participation grade.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed.

The University’s attendance policy is described in the catalogue.  Persistent absence or tardiness usually precludes satisfactory performance in the course, and jeopardizes that part of the grade that is based on class presentation and participation.  Students are expected to arrive to class on time; students are responsible for all material covered by the syllabus and/or discussed in class, whether or not they are actually present in class.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


We'll try to follow the following schedule as much as possible this semester. Any changes will be communicated in class and as an announcement on Moodle.
Week 1: Introduction to Business Ethics
Monday: Introduction to the course: what is business ethics and why study it?
Tuesday: Objectivity in ethics and some examples of corporate malfeasance
---Elaine Sternberg, "Ethical Misconduct and the Global Financial Crisis"
Wednesday: The aim of the corporation: profit
---Milton Friedman, "The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits"
Thursday: NO CLASS --- July 4th, Independence Day
Week 2: The Justification of Markets and Market Practices
Monday: The Market Failures Approach
---Joseph Heath, "A Market Failures Approach to Business Ethics"
Tuesday: Stakeholder theory
---R. Edward Freeman, Jeffrey S. Harrison, and Andrew C. Wicks, Managing for Stakeholders: Survival, Reputation, and Success, chapter 1: "Managing for Stakeholders"
---R. Edward Freeman, "Managing for Stakeholders: Trade-offs or Value Creation"
Wednesday: Corporate social responsibility
---Archie B. Carroll, "The Pyramid of Corporate Social Responsibility: Toward the Moral Management of Organizational Stakeholders"
---Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer, "Creating Shared Value: How to Reinvent Capitalism–and Unleash a Wave of Innovation and Growth"
Thursday: The moral limits of markets
---Debra Satz, Why Some Things Should Not Be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets, chapters 1 and 4
Friday: MAKE-UP SESSION --- review, catch-up, and extended discussion of material thus far
Week 3: Topics in Business Ethics
Monday: CEO Compensation
---Jeffrey Moriarty, "Do CEOs Get Paid Too Much?"
Tuesday: Advertising and Social Media
---Vikram R. Bhargava and Manuel Velasquez, "Ethics of the Attention Economy: The Problem of Social Media Addiction"
Wednesday: Consumerism & paternalistic policy
---Sarah Conly, "Paternalism, Food, and Personal Freedom"
---David Resnik, "Paternalistic Food and Beverage Policies: A Response to Conly"
Thursday: MIDTERM EXAM (July 18th)
Week 4: More Topics in Business Ethics
Monday: Meaningful work
---Anca Gheaus and Lisa Herzog, "The Goods of Work (Other Than Money)!"
Tuesday: Discrimination and harassment in the workplace
---Elizabeth Anderson, "Recent Thinking about Sexual Harassment: A Review Essay"
Wednesday: Whistleblowing and employee loyalty
---Ronald Duska, "Blowing the Whistle on Fellow Professionals"
---Robert A. Larmer, "Whistleblowing and Employee Loyalty"
Thursday: Global capitalism
---Nicholas Freudenberg, At What Cost: Modern Capitalism and the Future of Health, chapter 1: "The Changing Face of US and Global Capitalism"
Week 5: Course Conclusion and a Framework for Change
Monday: Individuals and moral motivation
---Joseph Heath "Business Ethics and Moral Motivation: A Criminological Perspective"
Tuesday: Managerial solutions, institutional solutions
---John R. Boatright, "Does Business Ethics Rest on a Mistake?"
---Jeffery D. Smith, "Moral Markets and Moral Managers Revisited"
Wednesday: Business culture and a framework for change
---Edgar H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, chapters 1 and 2
Thursday: Final exam review
Friday: FINAL EXAM (August 2nd)