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Honorable business: A response to Mendoza critiques

| Tuesday, March 29, 2022

As the Mendoza College of Business marks its centennial anniversary, many both inside and outside of the College question the role the institution plays in both the University and the global community. Does Mendoza indeed Grow the Good in Business,” or does it encourage profit-mongering individuals who prioritize self-interest at the expense of all conscionable, Catholic causes? 

Those who devote their lives and their studies to Mendoza know the answer: unlike other business schools, the Mendoza College of Business seeks to develop individuals who embrace what Pope Francis refers to as the “noble vocation of an honorable business leader. In their studies of Catholic Social Teaching (CST), classical and modern ethic and economic theories, ranging from Karl Marx to Adam Smith, students learn that wealth and goods in themselves are neither bad nor good, but rather that what one does with wealth and goods gives them their moral character. Mendoza teaches students not only how to maximize returns, but also how to use business to serve the universal destination of goods by recognizing the inherent dignity of all people. 

The above claim is not mere “lip service.” Over thirty years before Mendoza’s founding, Leo XIII rejected socialism and the abolition of inequality, a stance the Church follows to this day. However, the global economy still needs economic reform — a need both the College and the Church recognize. Pope Francis demands that human dignity and common good be central in the shaping of all economic decisions, and thus the world needs a form of capitalism that respects this need. Pope Francis states in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium, “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.

Mendoza leads this charge from the Church. 

Take Mendoza accountancy majors as an example. The average student pursues minors or a major in another college to broaden their knowledge through a liberal arts education. Moreover, many take one or more semesters of the Tax Assistance Program, a class in which students help marginalized families better understand their finances and the tax-filing process. This program, just one example of countless tangible efforts made by Mendoza’s students, stretches beyond mere charity and instead gives options to the vulnerable by helping them develop tangible skills. After graduation, many accountancy majors will become auditors or tax professionals, providing people with the confidence they need to protect and increase their prosperity. 

Teachers, first responders, blue-collar laborers, artists and priests more obviously provide social good because of the tangibility of the fruits of their labors. Teachers provide education, first responders save lives, manual laborers produce goods that satisfy physical needs and artists and priests provide people with the spiritual fulfillment necessary for human flourishing. Just because the role of the businessperson is less apparent does not make it any less of a social good. 

Bankers provide services to companies that foster growth and create more jobs. Marketers find new ways to meet the needs and desires of consumers. Managers derive creative solutions to develop more productive, enjoyable, diverse workplaces. The point is clear: the average person, who invests in the stock market and works for an employer, is dependent on business professionals for their own well-being. While some business professionals take advantage of the vulnerable position of those they are supposed to serve, Mendoza develops professionals who see their position as a means to increasing the well-being of those same people. 

One cannot deny that Mendoza graduates, like most who graduate with business degrees across the country, have high earning potential. To say this potential makes all businesspeople “bad” would be a naïve misunderstanding of how the real world works. Markets create surplus for both consumers and producers, a concept all Mendoza students learn in their introductory and managerial economics courses. Consumers engage in transactions where they believe they are getting something worthwhile for the time or capital they exchange. The resultant profit naturally arises from people engaging in mutually beneficial transactions — a fact many critics neglect. 

That being said, a fine line exists between mutually beneficial and exploitative practices. Mendoza, like all other business institutions, is subject to the same temptations that lead to the exclusion Pope Francis so vehemently opposes. Human nature leads us to struggle with greed and generosity, yet the recognition of this fallen nature of human existence sets Mendoza apart as a true “shining city on a hill. Christians can never imitate Christ in his perfection, but they try their best. In the same way, Mendoza and its students strive for the ideal. 

Despite the core values of the College, stereotypes of Mendoza students persist around the University. We all have an image in our head that comes to mind when we hear the word “Menbroza,” but this image comes from stereotypes. Simply because the backwards trucker hat wearing, crypto loving maniac inhabits your mind does not make it reality. Though stereotypes can arise from a minority of people who fit them, they often are unfounded and discriminatory. Mendoza students work hard both in and outside of the classroom, in both business and non-business clubs, to develop the skills needed to “Grow the Good in Business.” 

Mendoza has much room for improvement. Like the rest of the University, we have too frequently neglected the LGBTQ+ community, women, people of color, first generation students and other marginalized groups. We are a human institution that is thus, by definition, not perfect. The commitment to solving these problems despite the failures that may come along the way defines Mendoza. Professors gather monthly in small groups to read and discuss how CST can better be incorporated into their lessons, students offer free tutoring for those who need it, the school makes efforts to partner with other colleges to create new ethics programs and curriculum includes new attitudes of inclusivity in the classroom as well as intense study of socialist thinkers. These actions are what make Mendoza’s students more than just moral slaves. Drive toward good and success should never be confused with greed and evil

I will leave you with this thought from Cardinal John O’Hara, C.S.C.: “The primary function of commerce is service to man kind. Business has a code of ethics based very largely on divine principles. When this code is followed, commerce can and does advance civilization. Let us not shy away from the challenge of following this code, but wrestle with the call from God to serve mankind.

Matthew Guarnuccio


March 25

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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