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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 7:30 pm | Fair 56º


Paul Burri: Another Lesson in Business Ethics

There are some things that just can't be ignored

A long time ago, I took an evening class entitled Business Ethics. This was a 12-week, three-unit course and it cost me about $225.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

On the first night of the class, the instructor explained the textbook we would be working with, the format of the class and we briefly discussed a typical business ethics problem. Before dismissing the class that night, the instructor told us he would be absent the following week but that Frank, one of the people in the class, was familiar with the textbook, had been in several of his (the instructor’s) prior classes and would conduct the class that evening.

The course consisted of a series of “case studies” dealing with typical business situations that required ethically determined decisions. Thus, there really were no right or wrong answers to any of the questions and the responses were as diverse as the class’ backgrounds.

The second evening of the class — conducted by Frank — went well and we probably learned a lot by hearing various opinions. Toward the end of the evening Frank announced that he had heard from the instructor and that he would be absent again the following week and that again, Frank would be conducting the class.

To make a long story short, by the end of the semester Frank had conducted all but two of the course classes. So here is a course for which I am paying $225, and it is being conducted by a fellow student. And the final irony is that it is a course in business ethics.

As you might expect if you have read any of my prior columns, this was not a situation that I could ignore. After I received my final grade in the mail — I’m no dummy — I wrote a scathing letter to the dean of the school complaining about the instructor and his unethical behavior. I promptly received a phone call from her and we talked extensively about the situation. I never found out whether the instructor was terminated but I’m sure he heard from the dean. And I am reasonably certain that if he taught that class again, he was there every night of the class.

And while we are on the subjects of ethics, I believe it would have been unethical for me to ignore the situation and to have nothing about it. What do you think?

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business but he is a small business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of the Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE.

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