Summer Institute on Ethical Leadership Launches
Twelve students were part of the inaugural cohort and twelve alums returned to campus to lead the program, which aims to provide future leaders with tools to use when dealing with challenging situations.
A typical challenge presented to the 12 students attending Haverford's recently concluded inaugural Ethical Leadership Summer Institute went like this: If you're negotiating with someone you believe to be lying, is it OK to lie in return?
During the discussion that followed, the students used the teachings of well-respected ethicists to decide on the right course of action. A utilitarian like Jeremy Bentham, for example, would advise looking at which course of action would produce the greatest good, and if that required lying, so be it. Immanuel Kant would argue that in most cases, making a false statement with an intention to deceive is wrong. Albert Carr held that if everyone is playing by the same rules—that is, both parties know the other may be lying—then lying is permissible.
"There's no one right way to analyze these cases," says Neal Grabell '77, visiting professor of economics and independent college programs, who led the program. "This gave [the students] a way of analyzing and reacting to ethical problems. … We also talked about how ethics is not only about acting correctly but being willing to act, to step forward, when others are not willing to do so."
Providing future leaders with different approaches and tools to use when dealing with challenging situations was the aim of the summer institute, which was funded by the Initiative on Ethical Engagement and Leadership (IEEL). Established in 2014 with a gift of nearly $2 million from Andy Pleatman '66, the initiative's goals include developing curriculum with an ethical focus, bringing relevant speakers to campus, and supporting efforts like the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center's Science and Ethics symposium, scheduled for October. The current plan is that IEEL will stay in place for five years.
"These efforts will further Haverford's reputation as an institution that puts a dual emphasis on education and character," says Assistant Vice President for Academic Resources John Mosteller, IEEL's interim coordinator.
Pleatman feels that "Haverford offers an education that really does distinguish our graduates," says Mosteller. "He wants to increase the exposure Haverford students have in engaging in ethical issues so they emerge from the college with the promise of being ethical leaders."
The Ethical Leadership Summer Institute began May 15 and ended May 27, with each day beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending around 8 p.m. More than 35 Haverford students applied for spots, and the 12 chosen participants—six men and six women—were mostly juniors and seniors with a variety of backgrounds and majors. The institute was reading-intensive and required students to prepare presentations.
"This was one of the best run, best executed, and most meaningful programs I have ever participated in," says Adam Stambor '18. "I'm leaving this not really wanting to leave it, hoping I can do it again, and hoping it gets to as many people as possible."
Twelve alumni returned to campus to share their insights during the institute, including human rights lawyer Bob Swift '68, director of the law firm Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., and Sara Recktenwald '87, a managing director at Goldman Sachs.
Ron Shapiro '64, sports agent and best-selling author of The Power of Nice, led a workshop on negotiating and communicating in a way that leaves all parties satisfied. Physician Ted Love '81, CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics, shared ethical-investor strategies. Haverford Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jess Lord spoke about running a meeting by consensus.
"Before this, I assumed that a lot of people were bad people, just trying to make profits and doing the best thing for themselves," says institute attendee Darshan Suryavanshi Magar '18. "To see a lot of people who are so dedicated and have a sense of duty about practicing ethics is very powerful."
Another major take-away for Magar came from Samantha Beers '84, director of the Office of Enforcement, Compliance and Environmental Justice for the Environmental Protection Agency. "She implied that ethics are not something you just feel or learn or think about," he says. "It's something you have to practice, you have to share, you have to demonstrate during different stages of your life."
Grabell, the institute's head, says he was impressed by the trust that developed between the students, who lived together, shared meals, attended the same classes and workshops, and even spent their few leisure hours as a group watching movies.
"They bonded very closely," he says. "It added a lot to the discussion because they felt free to open up about the personal ethical issues they have faced and how they resolved them."
Grabell, a lawyer who spent more than 20 years as general counsel at QVC, Inc., presented "the ethical problem of the day," asking the students to evaluate a real-life problem, often taken from his own stint as an ethics compliance officer. The students then applied the different ethical theories they'd learned and came to a consensus on which was the best action to follow. Those whose opinions differed from the majority had to justify their arguments.
"The obvious moral choice wasn't always obvious," says Grace Mangigian '16. "It wasn't always clear that this is right and this is wrong … and just because something's legal doesn't mean that it's moral. Everyone's perspectives helped me realize it's not only black and white. There's a lot of gray area, and that's when you really need to have the ethical background that [the institute] gave us to make decisions."
Isabel Agnew '17 says she completed the program feeling that she gained a lot of experience "even though I haven't had to make any of the decisions like in the case studies. Just studying and discussing them showed me that any decision can be approached in many different ways. That's something I'll definitely carry with me."