B-schools need code of conduct

livemint.com | Premchand Palety

A few days back, I was in Indore where I visited an upcoming B-school. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the school had a code of conduct document published in the form of a booklet, even though it was limited to only students and did not talk of the expected behaviour of faculty members and the director. Many top B-schools in our country don’t have such a code. The document would have been complete if it had also included the code of ethical behaviour for all its employees and management. All governing board members and directors who aspire to demonstrate ethical behaviour in their campus should have such a code.

Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between good and bad unless it is clearly defined. It helps the management, employees and students in their decision making process in difficult situations if there is a clear code of ethics.

In the code the expected behaviour of different stakeholders with respect to all the processes of the institute such as admission of students, recruitment and promotion of faculty members and staff, evaluation of students and faculty, pedagogy and interaction with industry should be clearly defined. The ethics code document should be prominently displayed in the campus and on the website of the institute. All members of the management, faculty, staff and students should be made to sign the code at least annually so that they internalize different aspects of the code.

One important aspect of such a code should be the expectations of conduct from the directorand faculty members who are supposed to be the role models for the students. They should not seek any personal favour in any form from students and treat them as adults with respect and dignity. The director should be made responsible for the data of the institute displayed on the website or published in advertisements or submitted to external agencies, especially with respect to placements, number and qualification of faculty members,?which must be authentic.

The admission process should be completely transparent, in accordance with established procedure. The accounts should be properly maintained and should be in public domain. Students should have the right to know how their fee amount is being spent. The director and faculty members should also be made accountable for their activities outside the campus such as their presence on company boards or teaching in other campuses.

The code should also mention actions for which there would be zero tolerance, such as any gratification taken or given in any form such as money or gifts for any activity. For example, admission of students, awarding work to contractors, promotion of staff, placement activities and getting approval or clearances from government bodies. If All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) personnel or any ranking agency representative visits thecampus, the best memento could be a book authored by a faculty member of the institute.

Defining rules: Students at MDI, Gurgaon. A code of ethics helps management, employees and students take decisions in difficult situations. Ramesh Pathania / Mint

Any unethical means adopted by students in clearing exams or completing their assignments or projects should also be dealt with zero tolerance.

The code should also include sexual harassment issues. The signatory to the code should be made aware of the actions that amount to sexual harassment as per the law of the land and also the consequences.There should also be a mechanism by which any employee or student who feels the code has been violated by any of his or her colleagues or seniors in connection with any practice can discuss it with his or her area head or programme director or the director or even the chairman of the governing board. The institute must maintain complete confidentiality of such discussions and necessary action should be taken including dismissal or expulsion of the guilty.

A code of ethics document in B-schools would serve as a starting point in orienting students to ethical behaviour, which they could demonstrate in organizations that they join.

Premchand Palety is director of Centre for Forecasting and Research (C-fore) in New Delhi,from where he keeps a close eye on India’s business schools.