Post-Enron, Business ethics emphasized at FSU College of Business

"A deal is not a deal unless it’s a good deal for both parties."

With that business philosophy, businessman Cecil B. Day built his Days Inn hotel chain into an empire in the 1970s. Starting with a single hotel in 1970, Day put his Christian faith to work providing travelers with quality rooms and courteous service, all at a fair price. By the time of his death in 1978, the company had grown to some 300 hotels. (The chain was sold in 1982; it now consists of more than 1,900 hotels worldwide.)

Day’s ethical approach to business was passed on to his children, one of whom—Clinton M. Day—earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from FSU in 1982. Now, with a gift from the Day family’s charitable foundation, the university is impressing the importance of moral decision-making upon tomorrow’s business leaders.

The Dedman School of Hospitality, a department of the FSU College of Business, recently received a five-year, $500,000 gift from the Cecil B. Day Foundation to establish the Cecil B. Day Fund for Business Ethics. The fund will be used to develop a new and creative model for teaching and researching business ethics.

"Clint Day and his family are very much aware of the importance of ethical decision-making in business and industry, and they wanted to see FSU take a leadership role in promoting it," Robert A. Brymer, a professor of hospitality administration at FSU, said of the foundation gift. "In this era of Enron and other corporate scandals, they felt it was important for students to see that it is possible to be successful in the business world without compromising one’s beliefs."

To that end, Brymer has created an elective course, "Business Ethics and Moral Leadership," that gives students real-world examples of ethical decision-making.

In designing the course, Brymer enlisted the help of Professor John Kelsay, chairman of FSU’s department of religion. During the fall 2005 semester, the two team-taught the course through its inaugural run; Brymer focused strictly on the business side of ethics, while Kelsay brought a Judeo-Christian perspective to the discussion.

"The goal was to show that there is a way to look at ethics that is grounded in an individual’s personal values and perspectives," Brymer said. He added that it’s not necessary for a student taking the course to come from a Judeo-Christian background or to be a believer.

"The emphasis on a personal belief system is a means for showing students that their life at work is not separate from their life at home," Brymer said.

While Kelsay’s teaching schedule didn’t permit him to participate in this semester’s course, Brymer said that spirituality continues to play a role in the curriculum. In addition to business leaders, recent visitors to the class have included a priest, a rabbi and a minister.

The "Business Ethics and Moral Leadership" course isn’t the only step that the FSU College of Business has taken in recent months to increase students’ awareness of the importance of ethical decision-making. Brymer also has organized a Business Ethics Forum, which he hopes will become an annual event. The first forum, held in February, featured a panel discussion led by four business leaders who discussed their personal philosophies and gave examples of ethical dilemmas that they have encountered.

In addition, Joe Nosari, until recently the college’s interim dean, has established a Faculty Business Roundtable, composed of faculty members from each of the eight departments within the College of Business. The group now meets regularly to discuss how the college can take its existing emphasis on ethics and expand upon it.

"With the roundtable, we’re developing ways to weave a discussion of ethics into every aspect of the college," Nosari said. "Developing ethics-related classroom discussions and assignments, promoting relevant faculty research, and even developing a college-wide honor code are the types of things that we are working on. We want all of our students to understand that doing good is just as important as doing well."