Archive for Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ethics professor takes high road

April 30, 2006

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On a cluttered desk in an office on the third floor of Kansas University's Summerfield Hall sits an old black-and-white photo of the Lone Ranger, his clear gaze peering ahead with his gun drawn, injustice in its sights.

Joe Reitz may not wear the iconic black mask, but he acknowledges that his focus on Mount Oread for the past 18 years hasn't been all that different from his childhood hero's.

In an academic world often celebrated for its liberal leanings, the business professor is a former Marine with a signed George W. Bush photo on his desk, a testament to his solid Republican politics and support for conservative causes.

But his lasting legacy will be rooted in a groundbreaking effort to educate his business students, and the companies they work for, in the importance of business ethics - a fledgling field upon his arrival on campus in 1988, but one that has grown in importance and prominence with each passing day of an Enron trial, Westar conviction or any number of "perp walks" for business executives and underlings alike.

"Sometimes I feel like the Lone Ranger," Reitz said last week. "Sometimes the questions you ask or the questions you give, people don't want to hear. But I try not to be swayed with what makes people comfortable. I strive to find the truth."


Kansas University business professor Joe Reitz discusses the ethical dilemmas facing doctors and pharmaceutical drug representatives during class at Summerfield Hall. As Reitz prepares to enter retirement, the work of the International Center for Ethics in Business, which Reitz helped found, is more relevant than ever in today's business world. Reitz conducted class Wednesday at KU.

Kansas University business professor Joe Reitz discusses the ethical dilemmas facing doctors and pharmaceutical drug representatives during class at Summerfield Hall. As Reitz prepares to enter retirement, the work of the International Center for Ethics in Business, which Reitz helped found, is more relevant than ever in today's business world. Reitz conducted class Wednesday at KU.

Reitz, Koch Industries faculty fellow, is retiring at the end of this academic year, closing out the formal portion of a career that started on the faculty at Indiana University and later shifted to Georgia Tech, the University of Florida and the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

But it is ending at KU, the school from which he graduated with honors back in 1960 and to which he returned as a business professor. He'd already become a champion of teaching business ethics, but his push soon picked up momentum.

He and Richard De George, a distinguished professor of philosophy, co-founded the International Center for Ethics in Business. Reitz already had convinced administrators to adopt a student honor system in 1990, one that would be revised 15 years later.

And for his class in business ethics, Reitz would make the objectives of his course clear in the course outline handed out to students on the first day of class:

A. To keep you out of prison;

B. To keep you from being fired for illegal/unethical behavior;

C. To keep you from embarrassing your family and friends;

D. To help you make a positive contribution to society;

E. To increase the chances that you will lead a good life.

If the class wasn't for them, he said, they could leave.

Plenty of students stayed, and Reitz fondly recalls the phone calls he had received from former students who offered thanks for his guidance as they were promoted - oftentimes for their steadfast adherence to ethical standards.

Now Reitz is leaving the classroom, at a university he dearly loves but fears has gone "adrift" because of a rising tide of attention and resources flowing into athletics. Without a sound vision for the purpose of the institution, he said, the campus is vulnerable to being pulled into undesirable directions.

Reitz promises to keep an eye on things. He'll be involved with KU Students for Life, for which he has served as faculty adviser for 18 years, and serve on the board of Midwest Student Ministries, another student organization.

"The legend of the Lone Ranger never dies," he said. "I'll be around."

Comments

devobrun 9 years ago

Wanna have less government, be more free, make your own decisions? Be more ethical.

Hooray for Professor Reitz.

Could this class be adapted for other departments within the U? Seems that political science, anthropology, and biology could benefit from a dose of training in how to recognize the truth from that which is smoke and mirrors.

devobrun 9 years ago

Why stop there. Since the definition of politician is "one who works to get reelected", all pols are in business to lie.

Look at all the laws that are passed but never enforced. Look at the all the talk and lack of action regarding issues defined by the press. Take price of gasoline:

Exxon Mobil gross revenues for 2005: $359 billion Excise, income tax and duties: $96 billion Net profit to Exxon Mobil: $36 billion

So the pols on both sides of the aisle want to increase the tax on oil companies because they are making 10% profit, while the government is already getting almost 3 times that.

Meanwhile, the environmentalists are secretly happy that the price is increasing so that less gasoline will be burned.

Also in the paper today was a cartoon from Luckovich showing the GOP elephant in bed with the oil companies. All smoking. Rest assured that the Dem donkey was in the bed too. Hiding under the bed was the Sierra club. Increased price of gasoline increases revenue to big oil, the government, and supports the agenda of evironmentalists

Just ask the democratic politicians in Louisiana if they want the oil companies to shrink.

Professor Reitz has a very big job to do.

Henry Salmans 4 years, 2 months ago

Professor Reitz, Your indelible mark of integrity and solid moral principles is still having an impact. Thank you for being a friend. With Utmost Respect ~ Semper Fi, Hank

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