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Mendoza focuses on inequality during annual Ethics Week

| Friday, February 15, 2019

The theme for the third-annual Notre Dame Ethics Week, hosted by the Mendoza College of Business and the Notre Dame Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership, was “Economic Inequality: On Campuses, in Communities and at Companies.”

Past themes have included “Lead Local, Lead Global” and “Sports and the Common Good.”

Ethics Week coordinator Brian Levey explained the reasoning behind the theme for the speaker series.

“Income inequality, or economic inequality more broadly, has worked its way into the national conversation, and so it seemed like the right time for us to focus on the issue, especially as a Catholic business school,” Levey said in an email.

The event spanned from Tuesday until Friday with one speaker or panel each day. Panelists and speakers were chosen with the intent of displaying perspectives of economic inequality from a variety of angles, Levey said.

The panelists consisted of both faculty and staff on campus and visiting speakers.

“We looked for experts in their respective fields who would have something [interesting to] share with us about economic inequality,” Levey said.

Speakers included Virginia Eubanks, associate professor of political science at the University of Albany, SUNY, and a panel featuring panel admissions director Bob Mundy, director of Financial Aid Mary Nucciarone and former director of the Office of Student Enrichment Marc Burdell. Professor Dan Graff, director of the Higgins Labor Program also spoke on a panel with colleague and assistant professor of management Charlice Hurst. The week concludes Friday with speaker Steven Clifford, author of “The CEO Pay Machine: How it Trashes America and How to Stop It.”

Graff explained that he, along with Hurst, is currently developing a just wage framework and online tool to calculate fair wages. The project pulls people together from different disciplines across campus, Graff said.

“[Hurst] and I are representing our working group that has sociologists, economists, historians like me, management professors like her and people from the law school,” Graff said. “It’s kind of an attempt to bring together folks from different disciplines and see if we could come up with an answer to the question: What makes any given wage just or unjust?”

Graff said this year’s theme is the most pressing public issue of our time, which is why he is involved in just wage research. 

“I think ethics should inform any of our endeavors and I certainly think that in the business world, it’s really critical because so often we as a culture or as a society are told to strip ethics from questions of the economy or business, as if you can or should just apply a monetary lens to things,” Graff said. “So I’m really grateful that Mendoza sponsors Ethics Week in order to reassert that we can’t separate ethics from economics or any other human endeavor, and I am particularly gratified that they are doing economic inequality right now.”

Graff said he believes it is important for students to attend events outside of the classroom, such as the Ethics Week lectures.

“It’s important to make sure that ethics is at the foundation of what students do … it prompts them to think about their own intellectual and maybe career interests in life in light of a different lens or through a different lens,” Graff said.

Levey also expressed the importance of students learning about issues such as economic equality.

“Our students are smart enough to have been admitted to many other colleges, but for good reasons they chose to come here,” he said. “Exposure to issues like economic inequality is part of their Notre Dame education. If they haven’t confronted it already, they will. In fact, some are living it. What do they think about it?  What are they going to do about it?” 

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