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Raghavendra Rau

Raghavendra Rau

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649
Forwarded-by: Nev Dull [nev@bostic.com]
Forwarded-by: "Michael Kass" [kass@pixar.com]
Forwarded-by: Peter Langston[psl@langston.com]
Ball State University
15-Jan-99

Ex-Convicts, MBA Grads Have Similar Ethical Standards

MUNCIE, Ind. -- When it comes to ethical standards, convicts and MBA students rate about even, says a Ball State University researcher.

A survey of a group of convicts found their ethical standards compare favorably to those of MBA students. But, when it comes to loyalty, convicted felons may have the edge, said Shaheen Borna, a marketing professor.

A survey found that inmates were more loyal to their employers, placed higher priority on customer service and worked better in groups.

The survey's participants were from three minimum security prisons located in three Midwestern states. Participants were mostly male (90 percent), white (80 percent), and young (48 percent were between 20-25 and 32 percent between 25-30). The average sentence served by respondents was 4.5 years.

All respondents were convicted felons participating in some capacity in the prison education system. None were a Ball State student.

The survey found:

About 73 percent of MBA students and 60 percent of convicts would hire, if it was legal, a competitor's employees who knew the details of a profitable discovery.

Both groups believe their own ethical standards are about the same as or superior to peers, past supervisors and business executives.

When it came to priorities, convicts put customers first while students favored stockholders and customers second.

Inmates were more "loyal" than their student counterparts. Convicts were more likely to do what was asked of them in ethically difficult or ethically doubtful situations.

Students were more likely to quit when faced with obviously unethical behavior while inmates were more likely to leave when the behavior involved a deal with the government.

Inmates placed greater importance on group trust and loyality.

"With respect to priorities, little difference was found between the two groups," Borna said. "The differences that were found in response to questions had to do with inmates' loyalty or with inmates' high priority for customers -- hardly undesirable characteristics for a potential employee."

Despite public perception, inmates in the prison education system, many convicts have the potential to become productive members of society if business executives are willing to provide opportunities, he said.

"If a potential employer believes that the values and ethics of inmates in the prison education system are not that different from the values and ethics of students in graduate higher education, that manager might be much more willing to take a chance on an ex-con," Borna said.

The research provides some evidence that organizations are missing out on the dual opportunity to lessen the correctional burden on society and add a valuable and loyal source of productivity, he said.

The survey also emphasizes that university faculty should increase awareness of ethics in business decisions by having students participate in live situations instead of learn them from books or lectures.

"Most groups, including convicted felons, know ethics and will usually do the right thing," Borna said. "The key issue in education may be getting students to recognize that most decisions have a moral dimension."

(NOTE TO EDITORS: For more information, contact Borna at sborna@bsu.edu or at (765) 285-5191. For more stories visit the Ball State University News Center at newscenter.bsu.edu on the World Wide Web.)