Skip to Main Content

Phil 305 : The Fall 2023 Assignment

A guide to resources for PHIL 305, Business Ethics. A jump-off point for research and to fulfill assignments.

The Spring 2022 Final Presentation assignment for Dr. MacLaughlin

PHIL 305 – BUSINESS ETHICS  -  FALL 2023

PHIL 305 – BUSINESS ETHICS - FALL 2023 FINAL PRESENTATION – GUIDE

Think of this presentation as the equivalent of a term paper, in that you will have to do some research and individual reading – except that the presentation will be done as a team.

For each one of these topics, the preparation should be as follows:

1) Each team will select a different topic among the ones available (see below).

2) Each member of the team (recommended number:

3) will have to find and select a different article dealing with the topic at hand. It is recommended that the articles describe different sides of the issue, at least two sides of it. So after researching, talk with your team members and see what each of you has found.

Articles must be properly documented, and must come from reliable sources. These can be: an authoritative /peer-reviewed journal; a chapter in a book; an article in a newspaper or magazine that goes into some length (that is, an article of “investigative journalism”, not mere reporting of a case). Blogs (i.e. opinion pages that are light in content and refer in every item to another source) don’t count as an ‘article,’ and neither does Wikipedia.

4) Each team member will have to turn in a 1-2 page summary /commentary of the text they analyzed. (Think a bit over half of it summarizing the article, and the rest giving your opinions on the article), to be turned in on the same day of the presentation. 4) Using the content of those 3-4 articles, you should together prepare a presentation (in Powerpoint or Google Slides). Ideally it should go through the following points:

a) Begin by framing the topic. This may be done with a question, polling in class, etc. The question doesn’t need to be answered, but should raise interest in the topic you will be presenting on. Examples of questions: “What are some of the ethical problems that could arise from current practices/policies?” “This dilemma is common in this field, what’s the best way to solve it…?” and so on. Don’t use “yes/no” only questions if you want to generate discussion. The whole class will answer yes/no and that’ll be the end of it! Alternatively you could exemplify the issue with a case or dilemma. You may extract one from your readings, or make one up. If so, make sure that you make it very concrete, “fleshing out” the situation. Again, you can poll the class to see where they stand.

b) It’s useful also to mention at the beginning of the presentation what are the most important ethical issues involved in this particular topic, why is this a matter of ethical reflection—so the audience begins thinking about these already.

c) Explain what are the “sides” to an issue (if there are sides), and what are the main arguments to each. (If this is an issue where sides can be taken). Try to represent all sides fairly!

d) Now each member should concentrate on presenting their own findings. Don’t present them “in a vacuum” but referring to what came before you. E.g. if your previous team member talked about big corporations going green, you may introduce your research on a small company by contrast: “Let’s see what small business are doing in the meantime…” e)

At the end of the presentation, don’t just leave the matter up in the air. Propose what you think is the best solution, or the most likely judgment. Recall the pros and cons and the various arguments given in the articles.

Point distribution: Individual reports (10 p.) Turned in on time, with proper titles and references. The NAME OF THE ARTICLE and AUTHORS must be in the title of your report. (You can simply use as title “Review of ‘article name’ (year) by ‘article authors’” And then, as a subtitle, a phrase that captures what the article is saying. Include the full references at the end. - PROVIDE COMPLETE TITLES ACCORDING TO THIS MODEL OR YOU WILL LOSE POINTS - [Student Name], St. Ambrose University A review of [Article Name-year-author] “Creative Assimilation of Waste Containers” (2018) by Malcolm Frege: An ingenious way to reuse old waste containers. [The last phrase would be your summing up what the paper is about.]

The summary part of your report itself must mention specific findings, that is, don’t say “my article talks about how many people think that puffery is wrong,” and leave it there, but rather “according to the article, 75% of people interviewed during the summer of 2018…” The evaluation part must register your reaction to the review. Is it properly researched? Do you think it tells the whole thing or is it slanted, biased, or incomplete? Is there something they overlooked? What did you learn overall from reading it? Who would you recommend this to? What did it make you think about? Did it change your way of thinking about a topic? (Note: If for the most part the article was poorly written and you learned nothing from it, choose a different article!)

Powerpoint (4 p., graded as a team): clear, well organized, attractive layout, free of typos. Everyone should use the same template; the best way of accomplishing this will be working with Google Slides. Don’t crowd it too much; the majority of the content should come from your own presentation! Use fonts that are big enough to read in the “share content” screen. The presentation itself (4 p., graded individually) Presentation (graded separately): clear, competent, energetic, showing familiarity with the content. Practice projecting your voice so it is clearly audible. (If your voice does not project clearly you will lose a point). Knowing your slides, and what to say on each is key. If it looks like you are reading them for the first time it will not go as well! Discussion generated (2 p. graded as a team): the presentation generates a good discussion (e.g. by introducing a dilemma, or generating interesting questions afterwards) and team members respond to them showing a good grasp of their material, or the limitations of their material. If the presentation generates some questions and discussion from the students it will be graded higher than if it’s only the teacher engaging with the presenters!

TOPICS:

1) “Puffery” and Marketing Ethics

2) Advertising to children

3) “Ageism” in hiring

4) Income Inequality between Genders

5) The problems with outsourcing (and how to solve them)

6) A Survey of Creative Environmentally-Friendly Practices.

7) Ethical issues with college sports

8) The ethics of arms sales

9) The question of a universal basic income TOPICS

(EXPANDED):

1) “Puffery” and Marketing Ethics: Marketing companies have two potentially contradictory goals: to inform consumers about their products, and to convince consumers to buy them. Can these two goals be reconciled? How far can a marketing company go into, e.g., manipulating images to make a product look better? Is this deception, and thus, unethical? Your job is to find out what are the “running standards” in this industry; to produce or find a concrete dilemma that exemplifies the problems involved, and to judge whether the current standards are ethically adequate or not. (For this topic, leave out “advertising to children”, as that’s another presentation).

2) Advertising to children: The rules for advertising for children (in particular, TV adds during children’s shows or in children-dedicated channels) are different from regular rules, taking into consideration the particular vulnerabilities of that age (e.g. promoting unrealistic body types, stereotypes, fostering a consumeristic attitude, etc.) This team should investigate (a) how are those rules different, and what are the grounds for this differential treatment; (b) whether the rules are actually followed by the industry, or whether there is a disconnect between laws and practice, and (c) evaluate whether the different rules are justified/ adequate and whether or not more needs to be done in this area.

3) “Ageism” in hiring: From the point of view of using resources efficiently, it seems to make sense to choose younger candidates when hiring. They are bound to encounter fewer health problems – thus, less absenteeism – and their retiring age is farther away. But is this an instance of “ageism”? Are candidates being discriminated against because of their age? And is this bias in hiring justified at all (that is, does it really make sense)?

4) Income Inequality between Genders: A variety of studies have looked into the difference in income that, on average, male and female workers receive during their lives. What are the causes? Can the issue be solved? Should something be done “from outside,” as a legal imposition, in order to solve this issue? Your presentation should include a survey of the most important studies done on this area, a discussion on whether this is an ethical issue that needs to be addressed and why (i.e., don’t “assume” it is a problem without discussing why), and what potential, practical solutions could be employed.

5) The problems with outsourcing (and how to solve them): Outsourcing was hailed in the 90s as an easy and effective way of making a profit, by delegating production phases to contractors in regions with extremely cheap labor and little oversight. But companies that rely heavily on this practice suffered (and continue to suffer) heavy backlash when it was discovered that working conditions in subcontracting companies were dreadful, amounting almost to slavery, including child slavery. Your job is (1) to present some of the most wellknown outsourcing scandals, (2) to explain what important changes have been made in the industry concerning outsourcing, and (3) explore some creative practices currently used to improve the situation for workers in regions typically used for outsourcing.

6) A Survey of Creative Environmentally-Friendly Practices: Select some prominent/ creative/ inspiring examples (one or two per team member) of companies that have found ways of making a positive impact in the environment, or minimize the damage to it. A suggested way of proceeding here is for ONE team member to talk first about the most common ways (e.g. energy saving, waste processing, LEED certification and such), but then talk about some particularly creative practices, and how they came to think about them. Again, these must have a “wow” factor, be unusual and meaningful, “game changers” of sorts, and not simply “this store makes its shopping bags from recycled fibers.”

7) Ethical issues with college sports: A variety of issues may appear here; try to make sure that you focus more on the “business ethics” sides. Is it right to pay college athletes so much / so little? Does it contribute to the education industry, or does it divert funds that could be better used for teaching/learning itself? Are there issues with equality/inequality? Should “e-sports” be included among college sports? These are just some of the interesting questions you may find about. Leave room for lots of discussion, and make sure you don’t focus only on one case. Also, don’t assume the class knows of particular cases; you must explain the cases you will be using.

8) The ethics of arms sales: This team will identify and reflect on a variety of ethical issues that arise from the manufacturing and sale-for-profit of firearms. From its historical beginnings in the U.S. (Colt, Winchester) the profit model of industrial producers of firearms has relied on manufacturing a need for firearms that would increase the demand. This has meant providing weapons for all parties in times of war, and putting as many guns as possible in the hands of individuals in times of peace, sometimes by creating or emphasizing public fears. At the international level, it is governments sometimes that get involved, circumventing issues of national security for the quick profit of weapons exports. Can a model of firearms-for-profit be ethically justified, or is this practice inevitably unethical?

9) The universal basic income question: In the past decades (and partly as a consequence of loss of jobs due to heavy automation) the question is in the air as to whether it would be beneficial or catastrophic, or somewhere in-between, to provide every member of society with a “basic income” regardless of whether they work or not. While the idea seems counterintuitive (would this not tempt most every human being to stop working and leave off the few that do?), supporters of this idea point at positive potential effects: people would work because they want to, but the freedom from the threat of catastrophic poverty would help them aim at furthering their education and shoot for their dreams. And so, various countries have actually done some experiments and pilot programs, with varied results. The team in charge of this question should focus especially on these experiments (i.e. don’t base your presentation on speculation but on what studies and experiments reveal or suggest.)