Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conservative Idealism in Business Programs

By Andrew Luxmore.

In my fourth year as a business student, I took courses on Strategic Management. I had considerable experience with post-secondary education, having spent several unsuccessful years in a math program at Waterloo. Later, I earned a three year diploma at Durham College, taking advantage of the bridge program to fast track my university degree at UOIT.

Strategic Management was a course designed around classroom discussion. This was typical for an arts course, but as far as I could tell was completely unique for a business course. What surprised me about the whole university experience, but this class in particular, was the tendency for my peers to be on the right hand side of the political spectrum. With few exceptions, the class discussion seemed to be dominated by conservative idealism. Making money and a good economy were stronger motivators than more liberal ideals like environmental responsibility and corporate ethics.

The class had a term project in which we presented the strategic decisions of a company that was listed on the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange). One group worked on an oil company that was taking advantage of the oil sands in Alberta. The discussion on the oil sands was surprising. It is a topic that is in the news for the devastating effects it has on the environment, but I was the only person who was aware or cared about this point. The prevailing opinion was that oil energy was so fundamental to the preservation of human society that it did not matter about the resulting environmental damage. It seems suspiciously convenient to me that the oil companies in charge of the oil sands are making huge profits in their quest to preserve human society. 

Another issue came about during a discussion on Abercrombie & Fitch hiring practices. It seems that Abercrombie & Fitch screens potential applicants to make sure they look sufficiently trendy to work at the store. Most of the class agreed that it was acceptable for Abercrombie & Fitch to discriminate in its hiring practices because it was part of a sound business plan that allowed them to make money. People did not seem to notice the significant ethical barrier that was in the way. This practice encourages and justifies discrimination. 

It was surprising to me because I expect to see these attitudes from retirees who have developed conservative goals over the years. Young people traditionally support liberal viewpoints. Is there something about the business program that attracts conservative students? Or has there been a backlash against liberalism that has created a generation of students that make conservatism trendy? Discovering this was the most discouraging moment of my university career.
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*Andrew Luxmore is a recent graduate from the business program at UOIT in Oshawa, Ontario. He has worked, and hopes to continue working, in the computer software field, drawing upon his experience as a college grad in the same field. He tells anyone who will listen to go to college instead of university, if possible.

1 comment:

Hari Bapuji said...

Interesting thoughts. I am not sure about the students, but there was a study about this on professors in general. Please see here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/arts/18liberal.html?em

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