In preparation for this week’s Discussion, your ethical principles will be tested with a short case study where Duke’s

| June 5, 2016

In preparation for this week’s Discussion, your ethical principles will be tested with a short case study where Duke’s Fuqua School of Business was under scrutiny in the manner it addressed the ten percent of MBA Program learners of cheating on a take home test. Another college from New Jersey had a similar incident with its Chinese-based MBA Program learners for plagiarism. Read the Test Your Principles, Exhibit 12.3, page 361, article in your text and respond to the following questions:
If you were asked to serve as an Ethics Review Arbitrator, what decision would you have rendered in support of the Duke University MBA Program learners’ issue? The Centenary College Chinese MBA Program?
In support of your ruling as Ethics Review Arbitrator, explain your key reasons for your decision.

Just a few years ago, the dean of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business announced that 10 percent of its MBA class had been caught cheating on a take-home final exam and would be dismissed. These MBAs were “cream of the crop” students with six years of corporate experience and careers under way in the new “wiki” world of online collaboration and aggregation of others,’ knowledge via the Web as an emerging key source of competitive advantage. So they collaborated in crafting answers to the take-home final exam, sharing insights and ideas, and so forth. Their professors saw the similarity in answers, and, looking to evaluate individual performance, found the collaboration unethical, dishonest, lacking integrity, and fundamentally wrong. So they were dismissed for cheating.

Three years later, Centenary College, a small Hackettstown, New Jersey-based institution, ended its MBA program for Chinese-speaking students after finding “evidence of widespread plagiarism,” the school said in a statement posted on its Web site. The China MBA program was based in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taiwan. All 400 students were given the choice of accepting a tuition refund—as much as $1,400—or taking a comprehensive exam to earn a degree.*

According to the statement, all but two students decided to take a refund. The college also noted in the statement that students who cheat are ordinarily dismissed from the school, but the China MBA students are being given more leniency “in an effort to afford students every fair possibility.”*

A BusinessWeek Commentary took issue with the Duke decision—and saw a different interpretation. Their point: the new world order is about teamwork, shared information. Social networking, a new culture of shared information, postmodern learning wiki style. Text messaging, downloading essays, getting questions answered from others, often unknown, via the Web. All of these are the new ways we work today. We function in an interdependent world, where success often hinges on creative collaboration, networking, and “googling” to tap a literal world of information and expertise available at the click of a keyboard or a cell phone.

Others, starting with their Duke professors, viewed these students collaborating on a take-home exam as a conscious effort to break the rules, or at least, gain unauthorized advantage. And maybe, they apparently thought, this was a good situation about which to make an example in order to rein in an increasingly rudderless business culture.

What do you think? Is what these students did ethical, principled leadership? Is it “cheating,” or simply collaborative learning?

Michelle Conlin, “Commentary: Cheating—or Postmodern Learning?” BusinessWeek, May 14, 2007; and Geoff Gloeckler, “MBA Program Withdraws from China due to ‘Widespread Plagiarism,’ Other Issues,” Bloomberg-Businessweek,, July 26, 2010.

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