This week had some interesting aspects. After a deluge of foreign seeds began arriving in the United States, Amazon was caught without an appropriate policy. Well, now they have one. You can’t send seeds by Amazon. Looks like they went for simplicity in their policy making.
The Atlantic story about our president’s general contempt for veterans has made major waves in the political world. However, the editor of the magazine says there is more to come! More dramatic news than this is hard to imagine but nothing about our current political climate can be described as normal. Next week should be interesting.
An alligator skin handbag worth roughly $26,000 was destroyed in Australian customs for lacking a permit. This calls attention to the crime of animal parts being marketed to our jaded upper class. The struggle against this kind of nonsense is critical to preserving endangered species.
The Ethics Sage and the Ethics of Affirmative Action
Ethics of Affirmative Action
(A Guest Blog by My Colleague, Steven Mintz. Visit his site here!)
University of Texas Affirmative-Action Program is upheld by a Federal Appeals Court
Are considerations of affirmative action ethical policies for a university to follow? This is the overriding question to be addressed in evaluating race-based decisions about admission to colleges and universities. I raise the issue because a federal appeals-court panel handed at least a temporary setback to critics of affirmative action last Tuesday by ruling that a race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin had passed a strict-scrutiny analysis ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Critics of the ruling might believe that the ethical principles of justice and fairness work against race-based policies because people should not be treated differently because of race. The ethical support for this kind of opinion holds that equals should be treated equally and unequals should be treated unequally. In other words if there are legitimate reasons to treat one group differently than another, then such treatment is justified.
The problem with this argument is by saying one group (i.e. minorities) should be given preference over another group (i.e. whites) we give credence to the idea that certain groups are inferior because we then assume that the favored groups cannot reach the required level of achievement through their own efforts. Moreover, affirmative action policies lead to lower standards since some less qualified candidates will be admitted if race is allowed to override general standards applied to all.
Opponents of race-based policies hold such views because they value the equal treatment of every person on the basis of common standards. It’s hard to argue this position from a fairness point of view. On the other hand, I believe a diverse population in colleges and universities add to all students’ experiences as they learn in their classes how some groups historically have been discriminated against. I believe the motivation for affirmative action is to right a past wrong and not to give one group preference over another in admissions decisions.
The federal appeals court decision that brought to the fore the affirmative action policies of the University of Texas means that consideration of some applicants’ race are necessary to achieve sufficiently diverse enrollments there. In a 2-to-1 decision revealing continued disagreement among the judges over the appropriate standard for evaluating such policies, the panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit In response to an overwhelming Supreme Court decision Supreme Court decision that faulted the Fifth Circuit’s previous endorsement previous endorsement of the undergraduate admissions policy as too deferential to the university, the two judges in the majority said the policy withstood stricter scrutiny than applied before.
The appeals-court panel affirmed, for a second time, a 2009 summary judgment by a U.S. District Court dismissing the lawsuit brought by Abigail Noel Fisher, a white applicant who had accused the Austin campus of illegal discrimination after being denied admission as a freshman the previous year.
The ruling Tuesday’s ruling in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, almost certainly does not mark an end to the legal battle over the policy. the legal battle over the policy. The Project on Fair Representation, an advocacy group that brought the lawsuit on Ms. Fisher’s behalf, said it expected to appeal the decision all the way back to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
“This panel was proven wrong last year by the Supreme Court, and we believe it will be proven wrong once again on appeal,” said Edward Blum, the organization’s director.
Judge Emilio M. Garza, the dissenting member of the Fifth Circuit panel appeared to lay some of the groundwork for an appeal with an opinion arguing that the majority had again failed to treat the university’s assertions with sufficient skepticism.
“By holding that the university’s use of racial classifications is narrowly tailored, the majority continues to defer impermissibly to the university’s claims,” he wrote, adding that such deference “is squarely at odds with the central lesson” of last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the case.
In that ruling the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 6-2, that Michigan voters have a right to amend their state Constitution to ban racial preferences in admissions at public universities. In so doing, the court affirmed laws in eight states that have 29 percent of America’s high-school population and more than 40 percent of its Hispanic residents.
In the case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the court’s only Hispanic member, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, wrote a widely acclaimed dissent, in which she challenged Chief Justice John Roberts’s colorblind approach to college admissions as “out of touch with reality.”
A new report by the Century Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, suggests, however, that the concerns of both justices can be met: Alternatives to race-conscious affirmative-action, if properly structured, would produce more diversity than just concentrating on race.
According to a chapter by Anthony P. Carnevale and his colleagues at Georgetown University in the new report, The Future of Affirmative Action: New Paths to Higher Education Diversity After Fisher v. University of Texas, using socioeconomic preferences and/or plans that admit a top percentage of students from every high school, if structured properly, could produce even higher levels of black and Hispanic representation at the most selective colleges than racial preferences now achieve. That approach would work because it reflects economic disadvantages that are often shaped by racial discrimination.
Sotomayor’s dissent in Schuette is a strong reminder of the importance of race. “Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up,” she wrote. “Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’ ”
In Schuette, Sotomayor wrote that preferences provide the only realistic path to racial inclusion in higher education, correctly noting that race-neutral alternatives have failed to produce adequate diversity at three high-profile institutions—the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles.
The question of whether affirmative action policies, whether based on racial differences, to right past wrongs, or socio-economic considerations, is a complicated issue from an ethical perspective. Like most contentious issues each position can be argued from different points of view in part, I believe, because the motivation for such preferences underlies the issue of ethical ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness.’
In virtue ethics, motivations are an integral part of the ethical equation. If we can say the motivation for race-based decisions is the inherent goodness of such policies, then the Fisher ruling is ethically supportable. On the other hand, doesn’t Fisher have an ethical right to be given preference based on higher achievement of admissions criteria (i.e. SAT scores)? Doesn’t the University of Texas have an obligation to Fisher to admit her because she was more qualified and denied admission based on socio-economic factors that enabled less qualified candidates to be admitted?
These are difficult questions to answer. I am conflicted because each argument has some merit. As a college professor I have seen first-hand how having a diverse population in my ethics class adds value to the learning experience of all students. On the other hand I can understand the position of a student denied admission because other considerations allowed another student to be given preference for whatever reason.
Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on July 22, 2014. Dr. Mintz is a professor in the Orfalea College of Business at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He also blogs at: http://www.workplaceethicsadvice.com.
Poor Youngsters as Happy as More Affluent Peers (via Thriven’s Blog)
Is happiness determined by the size of your wallet? I’ve never thought so. But I do believe that debt pressure can make a good life into a living hell. I worry that millions of Americans saddled with debt they can never pay are never going to have a chance at the happiness that the last generation had.
Americans owe 2.4 trillion dollars in consumer debt. Than doesn’t count real estate. The big pieces of that are student loan debts coming in at about 730 billion dollars, credit card debt at 962 billion dollars. That leaves 708 billion for things like auto loans.
In good times, that wouldn’t be that big of a problem. If you have good jobs and a thriving economy, those kinds of debts are manageable.
These aren’t good times.
These debts translate into hardcore misery: lost homes, spousal abuse, alcohol and drug use, crime as well as mental illness.
When the debts are larger than your income, you lay awake at night. It sits in the back of your mind like a dull pain that never goes away. You feel it when you talk, when you read, even when you take a step.
You can’t buy a can of pop on the way to work. You can’t buy coffee when you’re cold.
You put gasoline in the car and pray hard that it works okay, even though you have been due for an oil change for three months and the tires are getting bald.
Your life moves away from logic and you rely on luck. Will the car keep running? Will one of us get sick? Can we get some part time work or maybe sell something? That’s what life is when it’s just a matter of luck. Things just happen.
There are millions of Americans out there feeling that kind of pain.
Read the article. It’s well thought out from a good web site.
An important article in today’s Guardian. For many of us who grew up poor or who have close contact with young people and families in the low income category, we would hardly be surprised that life can be as good without much in the way of money. Indeed, in many cases it is better. The genuine positive closeness of people – family, partners and friends – is almost certainly the key factor to feeling secure and happy. There’s nothing like l … Read More
One of the pleasures of having a web site is the opportunity to bring other works to the my readers. Here is a post from Dan Bodine. He always has interesting things to say, and this one is very good indeed, a very reflective piece. Have a read!
But what prompted this post also was some inner reflections of another kind, upon reading in Sunday’s El Paso Times of the death of Albert Schwartz, 94, of El Paso Friday.
He was a well respected businessman here for many decades. But what hit me the most was his small role in helping to turn back two of history’s most evil culture tides. Can we carry reform even further?
Foremost, in our gloom over the economy and a row of increasingly serious world events though, the two coming together as they did (he and Noemi’s birthday) were reminders.
Not only of not just how lucky we are at times, but of the enormous stride we as a people have made in bringing peace and reconciliation to a fragmented world also.
Lift your chin up a bit, was the message.
As a veteran of World War II, Schwartz witnessed first-hand some of the atrocities of Hitler’s Holocaust. And after the war, he urged passage in El Paso of a landmark law forbidding racial segregation.
To begin with, Hitler sent out his S.S. (soldiers) to European towns and villages and told them to herd up Jews and shoot them. After a while he found that this method was both inefficient and was having a large mental effect on the S.S. with many of them committing suicide for the atrocities they had committed. So instead, he developed Concentration Camps.
From all over Europe – including Germany, Russia, Poland and Holland – Jews were rounded up by Hitler’s S.S. and were sent to concentration camps such as at Auschwitz and Dachau. There were camps near every major German city.
Once at these camps, people were inspected and either told to go left or right. One way and they would be forced into slave labour, the other way they were taken to gas chambers were they were killed instantly.
Advantageous comparison (Moral disengagement, part 4) | Engaging Peace
Advantageous comparison is another form of moral disengagement described byUp and down arrows psychologist Albert Bandura. This mechanism is a way of trying to make one behavior look good by comparing it with a more frightful alternative.
For example, during the Vietnam War, massive destruction of the Vietnamese countryside by means of Agent Orange was portrayed as being a lot better for the Vietnamese people than being enslaved by the Communists.
Moral disengagement theory was developed by Albert Bandura, a developmental and social psychologist. This theory seeks to analyze the means through which individuals rationalize their unethical or unjust actions. Moral disengagement can be achieved through various mechanisms, such as moral justification, euphemistic labeling, advantageouscomparison or attribution of blame.
One of the mechanisms for moral disengagement is moral justification. Under this mechanism, people who engage in immoral or injurious conduct seek to justify their actions through morality. To such people, any such act is considered a service to humanity or for the greater good of the community.
Beccaria says that punishment should be based on the harm done to society not the actor.
Which does more harm to society: 1) manipulating the companys books to reflect profits when in fact the company was losing money or 2) robbing a grocery store and taking $180 from the register while threatening a crowd of people with a firearm?
The collapse of the company caused the loss of all the employees pensions and benefits. The company had more than twenty thousand employees, many close to retirement. The profit and loss manipulations of the companys books made the officers of the companies, millionaires many times over.
Who does more harm to society? Why?
What punishment would be appropriate?
My Answer –
Manipulating the company’s books does more harm to society.
Retirees are probably between 50 and 70 at most companies. For many the loss of pensions will mean delayed retirement and years of more labor. For those unable to continue working, this means living off social security which average 1, 250 dollars a month. Generally speaking the elderly are sicker than the general populations and living on a tiny budget often means going without food, medicine or adequate housing. In these situations, the elderly may have to choose which prescriptions medicines to buy and which ones to try to live without.
But even more, these individuals thought that they would have a surplus of money beyond their basic needs. After all, they worked for it and sacrificed for it.
For these people, there will be no vacations, there will be no helping hand extended to children and grandchildren in need, there will be no retirement in Florida, or on the beach or the waterfront or in the mountains – just wherever it’s cheapest to live.
These retirees might live another ten or twenty years, every single night staring at the ceiling wondering whether there will be enough money for groceries or medicine. – ten or twenty years going without a car, not going anywhere, not ever eating out or going to a movie. Their pain is almost endless.
Yet, the person who cooked the books, who stole tens of millions of dollars, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars, will appear in court in a fine suit with fine recommendations from his wealthy and well placed friends. He is unlikely to spend much time in jail, and when in society, his friends and family will not ostracize him but welcome him back.
This second insult to society does far more harm than either crime in itself because this reprobate getting away with little or no penalty does serious harm to the moral fabric of society. This kind of “justice” harms us all.
Beccaria is very deliberate in his approach to analysis. He views the law as a tool for preventing violence and suffering, rather than a tool for punishment. He defines laws as “the terms under which independent and isolated men come together in society” (Williams 442). Rather than advocating for extreme individualism, he argues for some restrictions on freedom for the good of society as a whole. Beccaria views individuals outside of society as men who are “wearied by living in an unending state of war” whose freedom is made useless because there is “uncertainty of retaining it” (Williams 442). According to him, men sacrifice a certain degree of freedom in order to live in the sovereign of the nation and “the sovereign is the legitimate repository and administrator of these freedoms” (Williams 442).
The Ethics Sage Discusses Ethical Organzational Leadership
My colleague and friend, the Ethics Sage, has a new post which I am privileged to be given early. Please visit his site and join those who follow his blog.
Ethical Leadership in Life and the Workplace
Creating an Ethical Organization Culture
Ethical leadership means to set high standards for ethical behavior and establish a corporate culture that supports ethical values such as honesty, trustworthiness, responsibility, and accountability. Gael O’Brien, a frequent blogger on ethics issues, points out that ethical leadership draws on a high level of “emotional intelligence” and the capacity to own an organization’s values as well as one’s own, linking the means and the end in business strategy.
In organizations where the management sets a good example, significantly less unethical behavior is seen in the rest of the organization than when the management sets a bad example. At the same time employees and outsiders are often critical of the lack of role-modeling at the top. The positive side of this criticism is that it conceals an expectation: employees and outsiders expect top management to provide a good example. That means that there is a need for ethical leadership.
Ethical leaders have a moral compass. They explore their environment, with a well-developed vision of right and wrong. They have a clear sense of direction when it comes to deciding what can and must be done to establish an ethical corporate culture. They see and hear what others do not see or hear. They not only draw a clear line between what is and what is not permissible, but at the same time push the boundaries, and raise the bar, for others as well as themselves to become more ethical.
Ethical leaders have courage. They not only know that things must and can be different, but they do things differently themselves. They have the drive and the guts to persist where others give up. Where others are silent, they speak. They demand responsibility.
Ethical behavior is not only for people in management positions. Ultimately ethical leadership should show people that they are not the product of their environment, but are capable of creating an environment in which they can get the best out of themselves and others.
Creating an ethical environment in one’s organization occurs when top management pays attention to the values they set for the ethical behavior of employees. An interesting approach to doing just that is known as Giving Voice to Values (GVV). GVV is an innovative, cross-disciplinary business curriculum and action-oriented pedagogical approach for developing the skills, knowledge and commitment required to implement values-based leadership. The curriculum was developed by Mary Gentile, the director of Giving Voice to Values at Babson College.
I use GVV in the classroom and provide the opportunity for students to script and practice in front of peers, equipping future business leaders not only to know what is right, but how to make it happen.
Ethical leaders pay special attention to finding and developing the best people precisely because they see it as a moral imperative – helping them to lead better lives that create more value for themselves and others. In other words, ethical leaders know the ethical development of those in their organization begins with making them more ethical people in a variety of situations and establishing a framework to make ethical decisions. That foundation can then carry over to the workplace and enhance ethical behavior in relationships with stakeholders – suppliers, customers, employees, and others who rely on the ethics of the organization to treat them honestly and fairly.
Ethics is not a spigot we can turn on and off at a whim. True ethical leaders know this and they cultivate ethics in everything they do in directing the organization to accomplish ethical goals.
Ethical leaders ‘walk the talk’ of ethics. They demonstrate through actions and words that unethical behavior will not be tolerated and those who witness such behavior within the organization must report it to higher-ups so that appropriate action can be taken.
This leads to my final point, which is that whistle-blowing is the key to improving the culture within organizations. That is why the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act include protections for whistle-blowers and, in the case of Dodd-Frank, financial rewards for blowing the whistle on corporate wrongdoing where the government can bring a successful lawsuit against the organization for fraudulent behavior.
In every business, leaders are the key driving force of the business, because they can be the one to drive their employees and the decision they make will affect the organization. Recent research (Resick, Hargis, Shao Dust, 2013) shows that, ethical leader are the one who “use their social power to represent the best interests of their organization and employees, set a personal and professional example of ethically appropriate conduct, and actively manage ethical”. Ethical leaders can create important positive effects on both individual and organizational effectiveness. The word “Ethic” may have many definitions but the main point of the word is “knowing and doing what is right”.
Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) is the quality of exchange between a supervisor and an employee (Walumbwa et al., 2011). The LMX theory explained that the “more frequently employees interact with their immediate supervisors, the more likely the relationship will be stronger (Walumbwa et al., 2011)“, this show that with ethical leadership can lead to better relationship with the employees. Ethical leadership always encourages opinion from the employees, which will boost the individual effectiveness and may boost organizational effectiveness as well.
Stop and Frisk as used in New York is in my mind the commission of a series of crimes in the hope of deterring other crime. The New York City Police Department commits crimes by frisking using racial profiling and quotas not legitimate police methods. There is no way you can within the law stop and frisk people based on pigmentation and an arbitrary number of stops while still passing constitutional muster.
But I’m also worried about the effect this has on the individual policeman. If the public is just a series of quota targets to be harassed, searched or arrested, when does doing justice or serving the public come into the question? At what point, does police work become the practice of an occupying military force as opposed to public service? What does this practice do to public perception of police? When does a police department become a military force to be used at the discretion of its leadership (like below)?
If the police are an army to be used at the whim of a mayor, the goals of law enforcement are being threatened by politicization. This is poor policy.
Public trust and cooperation are critical elements in police work. The public is not a single community but a variety of communities based on economics, race and geography. Writing one or two off is bad police work and will have critical long term results.
Stop and frisk as a form of pre-emptive strike against minority crime is clearly unconstitutional.
It needs to end now.
NYPD Officer Adhyl Polanco Speaks Out Against Stop And Frisk In Video
Adhyl Polanco, an officer since 2005, has become an outspoken critic of the NYPD\’s policy, which critics say disproportionately targets blacks and Latinos for police stops. He recorded his supervisors asking beat cops to meet a monthly arrest quota and testified in the recent federal trial that found New York City\’s use of stop and frisk unconstitutional.
\”This is not what I became a cop for,\” Polanco says of stop and frisk in the video, which was produced by the reform advocacy group Communities United for Police Reform and released on YouTube on Monday. \”This is not what I wanted to do.\”
A Vera Institute of Justice study released last month found that the experience of being stopped made New Yorkers less likely to trust the police. New York City is currently appealing a federal judge\’s recent ruling against stop and frisk, which prompted outrage from critics at a Monday rally.