Ethics expert speaks at UND's Olafson Ethics Symposium
By Ryan Schuster Herald Staff Writer Bruce Weinstein said we are faced with ethical dilemmas every day in both our work and personal lives. "We're faced with temptations all the time," he said. "We always have to remind ourselves of the importanc...
By Ryan Schuster
Herald Staff Writer
Bruce Weinstein said we are faced with ethical dilemmas every day in both our work and personal lives.
"We're faced with temptations all the time," he said. "We always have to remind ourselves of the importance of doing the right thing."
Weinstein spoke to students, faculty and the public Tuesday night during an interactive discussion as part of the fourth annual Olafson Ethics Symposium in the ballroom of UND's Memorial Union.
Weinstein, an ethics columnist for BusinessWeek and a frequent TV guest on CNN, Fox News Channel and shows like "The Today Show" and "Good Morning America," said ethics are as important today as ever.
"As a result of scandals like Enron, Martha Stewart and now Wall Street, we need to make sure business students, if not everyone, gets some training in ethics and ethical conduct," he said. "It won't guarantee that everyone ends up being ethical. But without it, it makes it that much harder to want to do the right thing."
Weinstein said he is not sure if there more unethical behavior is happening now or if those who cheat are caught more often with news of their poor decisions beamed around the world on 24-hour news reports.
"Human nature has not changed," he said. "There has always been that temptation to steal or do something extra to get ahead."
Weinstein is working on a book set to come out next year about ethics and teenagers. He said it is possible that younger generations are seeing more instances of cheating that appears to be accepted and wondered if that has changed some teenagers' perceptions of what is right and wrong.
Weinstein said essentially all ethics questions can be addressed by following five principles, which are taught in a number of religions:
n Do no harm.
n Make things better.
n Respect others.
n Be fair.
n Be loving.
Weinstein said it is rarely acceptable to lie, unless in extreme situations like saving someone's life.
He said sometimes it is OK not to tell the truth or only tell part of the truth to save someone else's feelings.
Weinstein said if a friend wants to know if you liked the homemade cookies she baked or your wife asks if the dress she picked out makes her look fat, it is possible they don't want your honest opinion and just want you to agree with them. But he said if it appears the friend is trying out a new recipe and is interested in an honest answer or your wife really wants to know what you think of something she hasn't bought yet, you should be honest while trying to spare their feelings.
He said sometimes, like if a friend bought a toy that may be hazardous to a child, you have an obligation to tell the truth.
Weinstein said even little things like lying about a child's age at the movie theater to save money can have unexpected consequences by reinforcing to the child that it is OK to be dishonest to save money.
The Olafson Ethics Symposium is named for Robert Olafson, an Edinburg, N.D., native and UND graduate, who gave UND a five-year donation to support the programming.
CK Braun-Schultz, director of external relations for UND's College of Business and Public Administration, said the next year is the final year of the original five-year commitment to the college, but added that she expects Olafson, a senior vice president at Minnesota Life Insurance Co., will continue funding the symposium.
Braun-Schultz also said she expects the symposium will grow in the future and expects UND will add more ethics courses in the future.
Schuster covers business. Reach him at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to email@example.com .