The Ethics Initiative at the Wheatley Institution
In recent years, many business, civic, and religious leaders have commented on a general decline in the moral maturity and moral sensibility in our society. Those who direct our core social institutions, including educational, governmental, and business organizations, can no longer take for granted that those they admit or employ will bring with them to their positions highly developed values of honesty and integrity, or that they will come with a robust sense of honor and duty. More frequently in our society, opportunism, self-gratification and concern for personal success seem to be overwhelming basic integrity, respect for the rule of law, and concern for the welfare of others. Both research data and anecdotal evidence seem to validate this trend. This decline in basic integrity has important implications for the tenor of public life and the viability of our most important civic and economic institutions. When self-service replaces public service among those who govern, the public good is placed at risk. And in business the real costs of dishonesty are staggering.
Fostering ethical behavior — in the business world and beyond — is thus an important priority of the Wheatley Institution. Our activities include:
An annual conference on Teaching Ethics in Universities. The conference brings together the best teachers of business ethics to teach a group of students while conference participants look on — and then discuss. The website associated with the conference offers registered users who are teachers of business ethics a growing repository of teaching materials, including video recordings of the master classes taught at the annual conferences.
Offered for the first time in 2011, a two-part conference on virtuous leadership for business executives, hosted by Wheatley Fellows Brad Agle (Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University) and Kim Cameron (Ross School of Business, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor). This conference includes both classroom training and guidance in developing and executing a plan for cultivating virtuous leadership in each executive's organization.
Support for research aimed at improving ways in which integrity, ethics, and leadership are fostered in the most basic institutions of society. This includes research directed toward the identification and articulation of core moral principles, as well as work on identification and development of the processes by which such principles are effectively taught and put into practice.
Invited speakers who are doing outstanding work on ethics and can share their perspectives and experience with our BYU audience, and — via various forms of dissemination — a broader audience, as well.
These and other related efforts will continue to be central at the Wheatley Institution. We will support and disseminate scholarly work which reduces the high costs of unethical conduct, encourages and enables ethical behavior in business and the public square, and enhances the teaching of virtuous principles to the rising generation.