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Study Compares MBAs' Ethics to Those of Convicted Felons

By Karen E. Robinson

A recent study by James Steams of Miami University and Shaheen Borna of Ball State University found that prison inmates and MBAstudents have comparable ethics.

The authors chose to study ex-convicts since they are a group whose ethics are traditionally considered unsuited to business. "The general public's perception of convicted felons is that they adhere to a different set of values, are generally untrustworthy, and constitute a great risk for employers," the study report reads. Stearns and Borna attempted to show that inmates do not operate with significantly different morals, they said.

"I've been a little dismayed" about the press coverage, Stearns said in response to the fact that some news sources and others interpret the study to mean that MBA students are unusually sleazy. "We didn't find that MBA's are unethical Every major newspaper gives a different twist" to our research, said Borna.

Assistant Director of Under-graduate Programs and Assistant Director of Educational Services for the Sloan School Heather Madnick found the question of MBA students' ethics "curious." "We have a great group of students," Madnick said. Sloan offers two classes which focus on ethics, and use many case studies with ethical questions in other classes. "It's definitely a topic stressed here."

The MBA students' data was used only as a control for the inmates' response. The data was taken from another study a few years old, which asked MBA students in various schools ethical questions. "We used their mechanics, and applied it" to the felons, Borna said.