Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thought Provoking Law Quote: Thomas Jefferson

Students often trivialize negligence claims as the overly aggressive machinations of greedy, self-interested ambulance chasers. But the quote below places such claims in a new light.  At the infancy of our republic, while  "We the people" were sorting out exactly how government could help maintain a healthy, just and robust society, our third president makes clear his views in his inaugural speech:

Still one thing more, fellow citizens -- a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

                - Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

A governmental system that restrains men (and women, ostensibly) from injuring one another is necessary "to close the circles of our felicities."

Nice, huh?!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Business, Lobbying, Government and Policy

"Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made."
     -  John Godfrey Saxe University Chronicle. University of Michigan (27 March 1869)

How is law made?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Guest Blogger: Robert Prentice - The Role of Role Morality in the North Carolina Athletic Academic Scandal

The Role of Role Morality in the North Carolina Athletic Academic Scandal

            Here’s a teachable moment.  Both business professors and students should pay close attention to the academic scandal at the University of North Carolina where “paper” courses were offered in disproportionate numbers to mostly football and basketball players in order to keep them eligible to play without requiring them to attend class, read, write, or learn anything.  For years grades for independent study classes in the Afro-American Studies Department were handed out on a “need” basis rather than an “earned” basis by office secretary Debby Crowder and, to a lesser degree, by department chair Julius Nyang’oro.  Plagiarism was rampant.  The utter lack of academic standards was unconscionable and inexcusable.  It greatly damaged UNC’s reputation as a university that could balance successful athletic programs with high academic standards.
            The important lesson here is not so much what happened as why it happened.  A natural conclusion might be that Crowder and Nyang’oro were corrupt, or greedy, or just bad people.  But the recently-released 131-page Wainstein Report makes it clear that Crowder and Nyang’oro did bad things, but not to line their pockets, or even to promote their department.  Their primary motivation was to help the students.  Crowder’s background led her to do almost anything to help students who were struggling, as she had once struggled herself.  Nyang’oro had taught two students athletes early in his career who had become academically ineligible and been forced to leave school. One had soon been murdered and the other ended up in prison.  Nyang’oro wished to avoid similar future tragedies.
            Crowder’s and Nyang’oro’s motives mirrored those of the teachers and administrators at the center of the Atlanta public school scandal that is still playing out.  In Atlanta, smart and dedicated teachers changed exam answers so that their students could pass standardized tests and their schools could stay open.  They thought their students had worked hard and were doing the best they could, so they cheated to prevent the students from being labeled as “failures” and having their schools closed down.  The motivation was understandable, but people are going to jail for their actions and, like UNC, the Atlanta school system will be under a cloud for years to come.
            The notion of role morality provides some context here.  Oftentimes people will do unethical things that they would not ordinarily do because of a role they perceive that they are playing inside an organization.  They might never lie to put money in their own pockets, but find themselves stretching the truth so that their company can meet its profit goals.  In their role as a “loyal employee,” they give themselves permission to be dishonest.  They might never cheat to advance their own career, but they do to help their child get into a better school than the child deserves.  In their role as “loving parent,” they give themselves permission not to live up to their normal standards.
            It is obviously easier to rationalize wrongdoing if we are doing it not to help ourselves but to help someone else, such as our students, our friends, our family, or our co-workers.  If students understand how role morality can make them vulnerable to taking unethical actions, they can guard against such mistakes.   It might be helpful for them to view the educational video on role morality at my school’s website:  The video is easily-available, award-winning, and, best of all, free.

Robert Prentice
McCombs School of Business

University of Texas at Austin

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Supreme Court Has Gone to the Dogs

The legal profession can sometimes be a dog eat dog world. Legal cases can be dogfights and there are so many dogggone precedents and procedures.

Even the Supreme Court is not immune.  Click here or on the image below to see how:

Note: This video is almost an hour and a half long!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thought Provoking Law Quote: Theodore Roosevelt

The LSCB today introduces a new recurring feature. Though Provoking Law Quotes will hopefully provide an opportunity to spice up your PPT lecture slides or syllabi or suggest a discussion starter for your class.  I encourage readers to send me your favorite thought provoking quotes and I will be happy to share them for you on the LSC blog.

"Industry, therefore, must submit to such public regulation as will make it a means of life and health and not of death or inefficiency. We must protect the crushable elements at the base of our present industrial structure"
  - Theodore Roosevelt speech on Social and Industrial Justice, 1912

Hear Roosevelt in his own words advocate for a living wage and condemn courts that block social progress. The quote above comes up around the 2:05 mark.