Are business education and social responsibility incompatible?
Some would argue yes. Studies have shown a correlation between studying economics and selfish behavior, ranging from economics professors giving less to charity than their counterparts in other disciplines, to economic students viewing greed as acceptable. Other research establishes a link between business studies and a lack of empathy and social responsibility, with finance students demonstrating the lowest levels of empathy toward fellow humans in the study. Then there is the issue of cheating among business students, highlighted when Duke suspended or expelled 24 MBA students for cheating on the 2008 exam (though such incidents can be found across all subjects).
But for each study or example depicting the view of dishonesty among business students, there is one indicating students embarking on business education do not show signs of a deficit in terms of social responsibility compared other students, before, during or after the program.
In short, scientific results are inconclusive. But what about deciding to go to business school? Is that a selfish act in itself?
Candidates embarking on an executive MBA degree are ambitious by nature. They’re determined, motivated, strong-minded and resolute. They have to be to survive and excel in the demanding environment that is the EMBA classroom. Yes, these candidates are studying for an EMBA to better themselves, to further their career, climb up the management ladder and create a profitable business, of their own or their employers. But does that make them selfish by definition?
Upon graduation, when the candidate uses his or her newly acquired knowledge to establish a nonprofit, this can hardly be deemed a selfish act. When the newly accredited EMBA graduate receives a promotion, opening up a position for a fellow team member to rise up the ranks, is this an act of selfishness? What about when the EMBA student’s class project benefits his/her employer, thus establishing a new and efficient system? Selfish or not? Will the MBA ROI be shared around and enjoyed by others?