NYU Stern School of Business

Undergraduate College


Fall 2012

Instructor Details

London, Shelly


Tuesdays from 3:30-4:30 pm

Tisch 432



Course Meetings

M, 3:30pm to 4:45pm

Tisch T-UC09



First class takes place on Monday, September 10.

Final class takes place on Wednesday, December 12.

Final Exam:  There is no final exam.  The final paper is due on Wednesday, December 19 at 11:59 pm via Turnitin.

Schedule exceptions
    Class will not meet on: Monday, October 15.

    Class will meet on: Wednesday, December 12.



In the Social Impact Core Curriculum, NYU Stern undergraduate students: 



Professional Responsibility and Leadership is an interdisciplinary capstone course that builds on prior coursework within the Social Impact Core Curriculum as well as other coursework both at Stern and in other NYU colleges. 

In this course, students have the opportunity to pursue the following learning objectives:  1) to become more familiar with the variety of ethical dilemmas that can arise in the course of business practice; 2) to understand the different values and principles that can inform and guide decisions in such ambiguous situations; and 3) to gain experience articulating and defending courses of action that are coherent with their own values. 

The basic format of the course is a discussion seminar.  Each class session may include a variety of activities, including:  discussion, in-class reading and writing, role-playing, and other participatory exercises.  These various activities will be designed and facilitated by the instructor in order to allow students to engage in reflective dialogue with each other. 

The overarching themes of this dialogue include:  1) the relationship between business and society on a global, national and local basis; 2) the foundations of personal and professional business ethics; and 3) the exercise of leadership in organizations.  

These themes are developed in reference to a series of cases that have been either drawn from recent news reports on business practice or drafted specifically for this course by NYU Stern faculty.  These cases will typically be provided in class by the instructor to the students, then read and interpreted collectively. 

The course readings provide lenses through which to view and interpret the cases.  Drawn primarily from classic works of philosophy, literature, psychology, legal studies and theology, these readings inform the class discussions and allow students to synthesize the case material and exercise reflective judgment about how they would act in similar situations.  These readings are posted on Blackboard, and students are expected to come to class having read them and reflected on their meaning with respect to the topics addressed in that class session. 

The course proceeds cumulatively so that all themes, cases and readings inform subsequent discussions.


Written Assignments


Students will complete two 5-7 page papers (typed in 12-point font and double spaced with 1” margins) that analyze issues introduced in the course, synthesize these issues in reference to the cases and the readings, and present reflective judgments about ethical action in business and organizational contexts.  Specific topics for these papers will be assigned in class.

  • The first paper is due on Saturday, October 27 at 11:59 pm
  • The second paper is due on Wednesday, December 19 at 11:59 pm  

Papers will be graded for both content and quality of writing; the grading breakdown appears below.  

All students are required to turn their papers in using the Assignments tab in Blackboard.  Integrated in Blackboard is an online plagiarism prevention and detection software – Turnitin – that enables faculty to compare the content of submitted assignments to data on the Internet, commercial databases, and previous papers submitted to the system. Additional information about expectations regarding academic integrity appears below.


NYU Stern Grading Policies

Course Grading

At NYU Stern we seek to teach challenging courses that allow students to demonstrate differential mastery of the subject matter. Assigning grades that reward excellence and reflect differences in performance is important to ensuring the integrity of our curriculum.  In core courses, our faculty have adopted a standard of rigor for teaching where: 


Note that while we use these ranges as a guide, the actual distribution for this course (as well as each individual grade) will depend upon how well each student actually performs in this course.  Please see www.stern.nyu.edu/undergraduate/grading "Teaching and Grading at the NYU Stern Undergraduate College” for more information. 

In line with Grading Guidelines for the NYU Stern Undergraduate College, the process of assigning of grades is intended to be one of unbiased evaluation. This means that students are encouraged to respect the integrity and authority of the professor’s grading system and discouraged from pursuing arbitrary challenges to it.  If a student feels that an inadvertent error has been made in the grading of an individual assignment or in assessing an overall course grade, a request to have that grade re-evaluated may be submitted. Students should submit such requests in writing to the professor within 7 days of receiving the grade, including a brief written statement of why he or she believes that an error in grading has been made. 

Grade Breakdown and Evaluation Criteria

Class Discussion                                 40%

Written Assignments                           60% 

Class discussion will be graded using the following rubric: 





A student receiving a 6 comes to class prepared; contributes readily to the conversation but doesn’t dominate it; makes thoughtful contributions that advance the conversation; shows interest in and respect for others’ views; participates actively in small groups.


A student receiving a 5 comes to class prepared; makes thoughtful comments when called upon; contributes occasionally without prompting; shows interest in and respect for other’ views; participates actively in small groups.


A student receiving a 4 comes to class prepared, but does not voluntarily contribute to discussions and gives only minimal answers when called upon.  Such students show interest in the discussion, listening attentively and taking notes.  They may also participate fully in small group discussions.


A student receiving a 3 participates in discussion, but in a problematic way.  Such students may talk too much, make rambling or tangential contributions, interrupt others with digressive questions, or bluff when unprepared.  Such students also participate actively in small groups.


A student receiving a 2 does not come to class prepared; does not contribute to discussion voluntarily or when called upon; and does not participate in small group discussions.  Such students may listen attentively but fail to contribute due to lack of preparation.


A student receiving a 1 disrupts class discussion, whether actively by being negative or rude to others, or passively by appearing distracted, bored or sleepy.



A group of professional writing coaches will hold office hours that will be available on a first-come, first-served basis close to paper deadlines to provide interested students with feedback to improve writing skills. Students who are interested in receiving feedback on their writing prior to submitting their assignments are encouraged to schedule an appointment to work with a writing coach. Writing coaches will read and evaluate paper drafts in terms of the following criteria:

Coaches will provide comments on the paper to the student and send a summary of the comments to the instructor.  Instructors will evaluate final submissions and may or may not take these comments about the writing process into consideration as they exercise judgment about the quality of the finished product and assign grades accordingly.

Whatever topic the papers might address, their contents should show evidence of practical reasoning that integrates three distinct, though interrelated forms of thought (adapted from Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession, Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, William M. Sullivan & Jonathan Dolle (2011):

The instructor will make comments on the paper’s content in reference to these criteria, take into consideration the quality of the writing itself, assign a grade, and then return the paper to the student.

An email will be sent to all PRL students early in the fall 2012 semester containing information about the writing coach program sign-up process and ground rules.


Academic Integrity

Integrity is critical to the learning process and to all that we do here at NYU Stern. All students are expected to abide by the NYU Stern Student Code of Conduct. A student’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to: 

Please see www.stern.nyu.edu/uc/codeofconduct for more information.


Students with Disabilities

Students whose class performance may be affected due to a disability should notify the professor early in the semester so that arrangements can be made, in consultation with the Henry and Lucy Moses Center for Students with Disabilities, to accommodate their needs. 

Please see www.nyu.edu/csd for more information.


NYU Stern Course Policies


Course Schedule




Module 1-- Setting the Stage

  • Date:  September 10
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to introduce the course themes and to initiate the process of practical reasoning.

  • Movie:  Watch the movie, "The Dark Knight" before class.  This is not the movie currently in theaters, but the one starring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger. Even if you've seen it before, please view it again.  Please see e-mail notes for more details. This movie will form the basis of much of our class discussion.
  • Readings:
    • "The Meaning and Relevance of Liberal Education," from Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession,Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, William M. Sullivan & Jonathan Dolle (2011)


Module 2 -- Economic Agents or People?

  • Date: September 17
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to frame the relationship between business and society in terms of a basic tension between market mechanisms and moral judgments as means of determining value.

  • Readings:
    • An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations– Book 1, Chapters 1-3, Adam Smith (1776)
    • Unto this Last– Essay 1, “The Roots of Honour” – John Ruskin (1860)
  • Assignment:  You will receive information on a group assignment for October 1.

Module 3 -- Where Markets Meet Morality, Part 1

  • Date: September 24
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to explore how specific types of market imperfection give rise to particular ethical dilemmas for organizations and consumers.

  • Readings:
    • The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi - Mahatma Gandhi, R. K. Prabhu, U. R. Rao (1945) Economics & Ethics Selections: X - Trusteeship, #54 (“Non Violent Economy”) & #55 (“Economic Equality”) VIII - Labour, #40 (“The Gospel of Bread Labour”) & #41 (“Labour and  Capital”)
    • Market failure handout

Module 4 -- Where Markets Meet Morality, Part 2

  • Date: October 1
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to examine selected aspects of the recent financial crisis (and its historical antecedents) and to reflect on the ethical values that justify particular policy solutions to the crisis.

  • Readings:
    • Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, 2nd Edition, - Chapter 3, “The Tulipomania”– Charles Mackay (1852)
    • "P.R. Missteps Fueled Fiascos at BP, Toyota and Goldman," New York Times, August 21-22, 2010 


Module 5 -- What Makes Us Moral?

  • Date: October 8
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to reflect on alternative (e.g., natural, cultural and/or theological) conceptualizations of the origins of ethical value in general, and to reflect on the sources of our own values in particular.

  • Readings:
    • The Gospel of Jesus According to Luke (select verses from Chapters 6, 12, 14, 21)
    • Phineas Gage Website
    • "Genetic Basis to Fairness" -- Nicholas Wade, New York Times
    • The Happiness Hypothesis -- Chapter 4, "The Fault of Others" -- Jonathan Haidt
    • “Notes on Ethical Systems” – George Smith


Module 6 -- The Role and Meaning of Money, Property and Wealth

  • Date: October 22
  • Learning Objective:  The objective of this module is to consider how specific ethical values are institutionalized in systems of money, property and wealth.

  • Readings:
    • Sermon 50: The Use of Money– John Wesley (1872)
    • Gooseberries– Anton Chekhov (1898)
    • “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” from Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman (1855)
    • Book of Ecclesiastes (Chaps. 1-4)


Module 7 -- Human Rights and Obligations

  • Date: October 29
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to consider how specific ethical values are institutionalized in the political concept of human rights.

  • Readings:
    • Google John Rawls and his ideas about  "justice as fairness" and the "veil of ignorance"
    • The Nobel Peace Prize Speech, Shirin Ebadi (2003)
    • “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (1945)
    • “Second Treatise on Civil Government”, Chapter 7, Sections 87-89, Locke, John (1690)

 Module 8 -- Ethics and the Law

  • Date: November 5
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to consider how specific ethical values are institutionalized in the form of laws.

  • Readings:
    • The Path of the Law- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1897);
    • Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired,” from The Prince (Chapter 7, excerpt) – Nicolo Machiavelli (1505);
    • US Federal Sentencing Guidelines Outline
    • 2010 Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual, Chapter 2 - Offense Conduct

  • Assignment: You will receive details about an assignment for November 12 related to your intended field of work.

Module 9 -- Professionalism: Standards and Challenges

  • Date: November 12
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to consider how specific ethical values are institutionalized in the form of professional standards and codes of conduct.

  • Readings:
    • “The Principles for Responsible Management Education” (http://www.unprme.org/)
    • “The MBA Oath” (http://mbaoath.org/)
    • Google two companies in the field you intend to enter following graduation and read their codes of conduct.



 Module 10 -- Leadership in a Complex World

  • Date: November 19
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to consider the extent to which people can maintain their integrity as they seek to balance competing interests while remaining loyal to the firm and to colleagues.

  • Readings - excerpts include all that is available on the blackboard site:
    • Analects of Confucius (excerpts from Books 2, 4, 6, 8, 12-15, 19, 20) (479-221 BCE)
    • “Callicles" from The Gorgias (excerpts) – Plato (380 BCE)
    • Personal Memoirs (excerpts) -- Ulysses S. Grant (1886)

Module 11 -- Leadership and Transparency

  • Date:  November 26
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to reflect on the standards of truth and disclosure that pertain to different personal and professional contexts.
  • Readings:
    • “The Conflict Between the Right and the Expedient” from De Officiis, Book 3, Chapters XII-XX – Cicero (44 BC)
    • Talking Business: Apple's Culture of Secrecy, New York Times, Joe Nocera, July 26, 2008

Module 12 -- Words and Deeds

  • Date: December 3
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to consider how the virtues associated with leadership can be enacted (or not) through words as well as deeds.

  • Readings:
    • The Prince (Chapters 15-19) – Nicolo Machiavelli (1505)
    • Rhetoric (Book 1) – Aristotle (350 BCE)
    • Nicomachaean Ethics, Book 1 (parts 1-13) – Aristotle (350 BCE)

Module 13 -- Looking Ahead to Your Life, Part 1

  • Date: December 10
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this module is to reflect on one’s own leadership style in view of several alternative models of leadership.

  • Readings:
    • Tao Te Ching, (#1-3, 8, 9, 13, 17-19, 24, 26, 30, 38, 49, 57, 60, 77, 80, 81) - Lao-tzu (600 BC)
    • Marc Dreier's Crime of Destiny, Vanity Fair, November 2009, by Bryan Burrough
    • How (Un)ethical Are You? Harvard Business Review, December 2003



 Module 14 -- Looking Ahead to Your Life, Part 2

  • Date: Wednesday, December 12
  • Learning Objective: The objective of this final module is to conclude the course by reflecting on the students’ personal values in light of their professional trajectories.

  • Readings:  [TBA]



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