By Nash Wills, Staff Writer
Ok so here’s the situation: You’re working at Volkswagen and you find out that your department is the one that is leading the charge on creating the “defeat devices” that were recently used in order to cheat vehicle emissions tests with diesel engine modeled cars. You’ve only been working for the company for about a year now and it’s a really good job. The pay is good, you like the people you work with, and there’s plenty of opportunity for promotion in the near future. So what do you do? Do you betray your company and tell the public the truth, or do you betray the public and continue cheating the system? It’s a situation you never hope to find yourself in, but money makes people do crazy things and, as soon-to-be-graduates, we’re about to enter a world where this type of stuff can and does happen; even within seemingly “good” companies. As Thunderbird students, we are unique in the business world though. We all take a Professional oath of honor and it’s simple things like this that differentiate us as a graduate school. But where did this oath originate? Where else other than the Honor Council?
The Honor Council
The Honor Council was originally started by a group of students who together wanted to develop an ethical code of honor that they could each abide by, not only while they were on campus, but once they left too. What was originally just a club designed to promote the school’s mission of producing ethical, responsible, global leaders, eventually turned into an organization with the dual purpose of promoting ethical behavior, and investigating ethical issues pertaining to both students and faculty on campus. With the recent merger with ASU though, the mission of the Honor Council has changed a little. ASU has its own methods for dealing with ethical issues that occur within the school, thus alleviating the Honor Council of its investigative role and leaving it with the sole purpose of ethics promotion. This is a big change for the organization. The transition means that their promotional role is what’s important now. Now more than ever, the Honor Council must adapt. Someone has to lead throughout this process though. So who’s the man that this responsibility falls onto?
When I went to Club Day a couple of weeks ago, I was in a rush. I had to work the Das Tor booth, had just completed an interview, and wanted to have some “me” time so that I could check out some of the other booths. I was trying to go to the Soccer Club booth but someone was already talking to the guys working it so I thought I would catch up with Donald for a little while. He used to be my neighbor but moved this semester so I haven’t gotten to see him as much as I once did. I didn’t really want to talk about the Honor Council because I assumed that I already knew what it was. I just wanted to see how his break was and where he had traveled. I was wrong though. Out of all the people that tried to pitch me to join their club on Club Day, Donald was the one guy who actually sold me. In fact, his pitch on the Honor Council was so good that we agreed to do an interview and a follow up article, and so the other day I sat down with Donald to hear about how he came to be the organization’s president.
In Donald’s life before Thunderbird he was a pharmacist. He had gone to pharmacy school at the University of Zimbabwe and, after having worked in the retail pharmacy industry for a few years, he received a job offer as a medicine control inspector for the Zimbabwe government. It was during these years that he developed an interest in ethics. He described to me a typical Zimbabwean medical ethics scenario: In Zimbabwe the law states that a retail pharmacy must be under the continuous supervision of a trained pharmacist. As you can imagine, this law is not always followed. Sometimes someone’s got to run to the bank real fast, go grab a quick lunch, or run home to pick up the kids. Whatever the situation, the pharmacist is gone, and in walks Donald. The crime may have been innocent, but it was still against the law and now a decision has to be made. But Donald stops me on that line of reasoning and says, “Ethically, without the law, is it right for the pharmacist to have stepped out during that time frame? Think about what could happened in 30 minutes.” And he’s right. Ethically speaking, someone could have been sold the wrong drugs while the pharmacist was gone and suffer the consequences because of it. Donald told me that he has encountered a lot of situations like that, and that he feels as though it is important for people planning on working in international business to know how to act in these instances. He feels that “the Honor Council could do a lot for people if they knew more about it.”
So what’s there to know?
The Honor Council has a couple of different events in the works and they are all focused on promoting an ethical mindset on campus through student involvement. Professors will be asked to do presentations on ethics within the business world and the first of these will be held on February 11th with Professor Ramaswamy as the guest speaker. The meetings will have a focus on the corporate world and will be informal. Think of it as a chance to get to speak with these professors outside of a classroom setting and soak up a little bit more of their infinite knowledge. The Honor Council is also sponsoring the 70th anniversary speaker who will most likely be an executive from a Fortune 500 company. The entire goal of these events is to both promote an ethical mindset on campus and for students to actually learn something practical because in the words of Donald, “to promote ethics, you need to talk about ethics.”