NYU Stern School of Business

Undergraduate College

C40.0125.030: BUSINESS & ITS PUBLICS: INQUIRY & DISCOURSE

Spring 2011

Instructor Details

Buchanan, Bruce

bbuchana@stern.nyu.edu

By Appointment

Tisch 304

 

Meyerson, Bruce

bmeyerso@stern.nyu.edu

by appointment

KMC 3-100

 

Course Meetings

WF, 11:00am to 12:15pm

Tisch T-UC11


Final Exam:

Schedule exceptions
    Class will not meet on:
    Class will meet on:

 

Required Materials

1) Business and Its Publics: Inquiry and Discourse, (custom edition for the NYU Stern School of Business Undergraduate College). Various Authors. (2011). Pearson Custom Publishing. Available in the NYU Bookstore.

2) Analytic Thinking, Linda Elder and Richard Paul. The Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2010. Available in the NYU Bookstore.

3) A Rulebook for Arguments, Anthony Weston. Hackett Publishing Company, 4th edition, 2009. Available in the NYU Bookstore.

4) Selected chapters from Beyond Feelings by V. Ruggiero (e-book); TO ORDER:

-Go to http://create.mcgraw-hill.com/shop/

-Enter ISBN: 9781121057081

-Add the book to your cart and pay using a credit card (the book is $5)

 

The Social Impact Core Curriculum

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

 

Business and Its Publics

Business has become the defining institution of modern social life: corporate activity and influence affects economies, governments, and people, with far-reaching consequences for local and global communities. Modern society moves by way of its organizations and institutions; as corporate organizations assume more of this social power, we consider how their social responsibilities grow and change to keep pace.

Business and its Publics examines the relationships between corporations and society, in particular the social impact of business. Plenary topics, readings, and assignments frame this examination from multiple perspectives:

  1. The role of business in society
    We look at the original foundations and frameworks for modern corporations, to understand their purpose and the structure of their relationships with other societal institutions;
  2. The impact of business on society
    We look at the power and limitations of markets, evolving views on corporate responsibility and relationships with stakeholders, and social issues that arise from business operations, including market failures and the social costs of business externalities;
  3. The impact of society on business
    We consider various social responses to businesses, the cultural and social influences on corporate behavior, and how corporations integrate social impact measures in their operations and decision-making.

 

Introduction to Inquiry & Discourse

The Inquiry and Discourse sessions follow the Monday evening Plenary sessions. The Plenary sessions are designed to expose you to an individual or set of individuals who represent a distinct perspective on one of the central issues related to business and its publics.

The central goal of the Inquiry sequence is to expand your view beyond the initial perspective that you were offered in the plenary session. The Inquiry sequence will involve discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the perspective offered in the Plenary, readings that offer alternative perspectives and real life predicaments suggesting complications and implications that perhaps no perspective can deal with effectively.

The central goal of the Discourse sequence is to give you an opportunity to articulate and defend your own personal perspective on the key issues and topics of the course. The Discourse sequence will give you an opportunity to select issues, conduct research, evaluate and document sources, and present a clear and well-supported argument.

The central skills that you will be developing in both the Inquiry and Discourse sequences are:

Critical thinkers actively analyze information, are generally skeptical of information they receive, and are open to challenging their own beliefs by seeking and investigating evidence.

Critical thinking combines a number of complex processes:

By choosing NYU Stern, you have entered an academic community where knowledge is both disseminated and created. The practice of critical thinking and analytical reasoning will help you evaluate what you are learning, and the ability to articulate and defend your perspective will provide the tools you need to contribute to knowledge yourselves. In Business and Its Publics: Inquiry and Discourse, you will learn how to differentiate between perceptions, assumptions, opinions, and evidence as you learn to analyze, create and apply arguments.

 

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, 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 and your own grade will depend upon how well you actually perform in this course.

In line with Grading Guidelines for the NYU Stern Undergraduate College, the process of assigning of grades is intended 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 the grade be 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.

Please see www.stern.nyu.edu/undergraduate/grading for “Teaching and Grading at the NYU Stern Undergraduate College” for more information.

 

Grading in this course

Grading is based on evaluations of written assignments and class participation. A description of assignments and grading follows below.

Grades will be given using the standard format of A-F.

%

PARTICIPATION – Inquiry and Discourse Sessions (includes Journal entries on Blackboard)

30%

Discourse Cycles 1, 2 and 3

 

Cycle 1 Position Paper:

20%

Cycle 2 Analysis Paper:

25%

Cycle 3 Action Paper:

25%

TOTAL

100%

 

Attendance and Tardiness

Our sessions involve creating a highly interdependent learning community. We are a small group and there are relatively few sessions in each sequence, so we count on each one of you to be present and involved every week. Three or more unexcused absences from the course will result in the student failing the course. Per university policy, excused absences are only granted in cases of serious illness, grave family emergencies, or religious observance. Each of these situations must be documented to our satisfaction. We must be notified in advance for any excused absence.  Missing classes for events such as extra-curricular activities, job interviews and travel will be counted as unexcused absences.

Class will start on time. Coming in late is disruptive, particularly in such a small discussion group. Arriving to class more than 5 minutes late will negatively affect your class participation grade. Students may enter class late or leave class early only if given permission by the instructor and if it can be done without disrupting the class. Instructors are not obliged to admit late students or readmit students who leave class early.

Classroom Participation

We are interested in both the quality and quantity of your class participation.

You will receive a class participation grade which will be worth 30% of the total grade for the course. Your class participation takes two forms: (1) the quality of your involvement during class sessions, and (2) the timeliness, thoughtfulness and insight of your Blackboard postings, which will receive a numerical score.

Extraordinary class participation involves activities such as contribution of new insights and ways of looking at the material or issue, new examples that you might find from reading the newspaper or other reliable sources, efforts to synthesize or compare across multiple readings or speakers, relating the material we discuss one week to material and perspectives we have discussed earlier in the course, and providing constructive feedback to your fellow students. Instructors will “cold call” on students regularly in an attempt to more fairly distribute students’ opportunity to contribute to class discussion.

Examples of class participation that would lead to a ‘poor’ assessment include repeating something a fellow student has already said, comments that suggest that you have either not done the reading or not paid attention to the plenary speaker, being unable to defend a perspective you have stated when asked to defend it, and comments that are tangential to the ongoing class discussion (suggesting that you have not been closely following the class discussion).

Reading/Homework

Students are expected to come to the plenary having read the assigned readings. Students are expected to come to class having read any other additional assigned readings. Homework, online discussion, and other assignments are expected to be completed and submitted on time.

 

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/codeofconductfor 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/csdfor more information.

 

NYU Stern Course Policies

 

Inquiry Class Assignments

Pre-Plenary weekly assignment:

Prior to plenaries, all students are required to have read the assigned readings.

 

Discourse Class Written Assignments

There will be three graded essays. You will preface these three essays with a series of Journal entries which you will post on Blackboard. They are required, will receive commentary and numerical score that will factor in as part of your participation evaluation. These Journal entries will help you construct your graded essays since the topics link to the assignment questions. Details follow below for all assignments.

Journal entry guidelines

Essay submission and design guidelines - please follow these explicitly:

This work is my own. I have fully and appropriately referenced any work and efforts of others on which I relied and I did not engage in any method or means that provided me an unfair advantage. I confirm that I have adhered to the NYU Stern Code of Conduct in its completion.

 

Cycle 1: Position Paper

Should corporations shoulder the social costs of their negative externalities?

To answer this question, students will evaluate perspectives by a number of contemporary commentators on the issue of negative externalities—side effects and byproducts of corporate activity that impose costs on society at large. Synthesize various points of view and express your own position on how to address the social costs of corporate externalities. Your paper should consider:

• What are the best models for allocating liability for negative externalities?

• What assumptions do the commentators make about the relationships between corporations and other societal institutions?

• What roles should other societal institutions take?

• What are the risks and benefits of regulatory solutions, from the perspective of business managers?

Cycle 1 Journal Prompt 1Due 2/3 (TR) or 2/4 (WF), 400 words

Read the essays posted on Blackboard on the topic, “The social costs of corporate externalities.” Choose two essays that take opposing positions to compare. For the first of the two essays you’ve chosen:

• What underlying assumptions and values does the author use in arguing a position?

• What strategies and techniques does the author use to persuade readers?

• How does the author propose we allocate liability for negative externalities?

Cycle 1 Journal Prompt 2Due 2/10 (TR) 2/11 (WF), 400 words

Repeat the examination you performed for prompt 2 with the second of the two essay you have chosen:

• What underlying assumptions and values does the author use in arguing a position?

• What strategies and techniques does the author use to persuade readers?

• How does the author propose we allocate liability for negative externalities?

Cycle 1 Journal Prompt 3Due 2/17 (TR) 2/18 (WF), 400 words

Examine the articles exploring the obligations of businesses to stakeholder groups in the course reader, particularly R. Edward Freeman’s Managing for Stakeholders, and refer to comments made by speakers from the first four Plenary Sessions.

• What different assumptions do these authors (or speakers) make about the relationships between corporations and other societal institutions?

• In a discussion of corporate social responsibilities, where might they agree with each other?

• Which societal institutions would each author say needs to take responsibility for negative externalities?

Final Paper Cycle 1. Should corporations shoulder the social costs of their negative externalities?

Explain and justify your position. Frame your response in the context of your understanding of the free market system. Include discussion of the first cycle's readings, plenary speakers and editorials and articles on externalities you’ve analyzed. Synthesize your analysis of two opposing positions to articulate the differences and commonalities. Identify the key arguments from these pieces that support your position. Use appropriate illustrative examples to support your position.

 

Cycle 2: Analysis Paper

Analysis of Corporate Roles in Social Issues

The BP oil spill in the spring / summer of 2010 was a dramatic example of a particularly negative kind of social impact of business activity. In situations like these, repercussions extend beyond fixing the immediate damage: there is an urgent effort to understand how these problems happen, and how to avoid them in the future.

Environmental damage, resource depletion, energy crises, exploitation of workers, health dangers from commercial products, economic injustice: we see many recurring, high profile social issues where corporations are cast as villains whose interests and actions are counter to society’s values. Stakeholders, activist organizations and other societal institutions challenge corporations to adapt, take responsibility, change or stop the harmful business practices that create or exacerbate the problems.

How do corporations respond to these situations? Tensions from external pressures expose the fragile relationships between businesses, customers, stakeholders and the societal institutions they interact with. Social protests can threaten business assets and unleash demands for changes to core business operations. 

For this paper, students will choose from a predetermined selection of contemporary social issues to research cases where corporations have an ongoing involvement. Rather than focus on specific crisis events, identify the underlying, ongoing social issue at stake. Student research should find situations where corporations have created or exacerbated the social problem, and also where corporations have taken responsibility and initiatives to remedy and mitigate problems.

Students will research the context and history of their chosen issue. Ask what has or hasn't worked, and why? What values and assumptions underlie the positions of the various groups involved?

Cycle 2, Journal Prompt 1 Due 3/10 (TR) or 3/11 (WF), 400 words:

Gather information about the issue from the perspectives of the various organizations, groups, and business(es) involved. Organize this research into a short overview that identifies the key players, describes their roles, their relationships, their influences, and outlines the timeline of the major developments.

Cycle 2, Journal Prompt 2 Due 3/24 (TR) or 3/25 (WF), 400 words:

Analyze the different perspectives on the issues from the various organizations and groups that are involved, corporations as well as outside stakeholders

• What are their motivations and goals?

• Do outside interest groups have competing goals and interests?

• What solutions have been proposed by which groups? Analyze the effectiveness of their strategies and techniques.

Final Paper Cycle 2: Analysis of Corporate Roles in Social Issues

Write a paper that analysizes the social issue you’ve researched.

• Explain the history and social significance of the issue. Document the consequences to key groups involved, including the corporation, stakeholders and society at large.

• How did the corporation and outside groups interact and respond to each other?

• What progress has been made to date, what problems remain unaddressed? What has helped, what has made things worse?

• What conclusions can be drawn from this issue about the obligations and relationships between businesses and other societal institutions?


 

Cycle 3: Action Paper

Advocacy for Corporate Social Action

How do issues of social justice and ethics manifest within business operations and making business decisions? What can and should business organizations do to improve society?

For cycle three, you will explore what a business can do to address a current pressing social issue. You can choose to build on the research from your Cycle 2 paper, or you may take up a new issue. In this paper, identify a contemporary situation where a specific corporation has an opportunity to solve a social problem. Your research and analysis should uncover the role your chosen target corporation has played in the history of this issue, and propose specific actions your chosen corporation should take. This paper should combine insight and analysis with opinion and argument into a well-reasoned and persuasive advocacy for action. Successful papers will address the complexities of relationships between businesses and societal institutions, and examine how a corporation can work with outside stakeholder groups to benefit society.

Cycle 3 Journal Prompt 1Due 4/14 (TR) or 4/15 (WF), 400 words

Positive arguments: Describe your proposed solution. In a brief synopsis, discuss the:

• History of the issue, review the roster of groups and corporations involved, describing their roles and their relationships.

• Reasons why the proposed action should be undertaken and why it could succeed. How would this action serve the corporation’s short-term goals and/or its larger, longer-term goals?

Cycle 3 Journal Prompt 2Due 4/21 (TR) or 4/22 (WF), 400 words

Counter arguments: Present the challenges your proposed action faces, why it might fail.

• How will success be measured?

• How is it similar to and different from previous efforts that have failed?

• What factors could have negative effects on the corporation’s willingness to take this action?

• What external hurdles must be overcome for the corporation to succeed?

 Cycle 3 Journal Prompt 34/28 (TR) or 4/29 (WF), 400 words

Implementation problems: Why hasn’t the issue been resolved so far?

• How have proposed solutions evolved since the issue became a public concern? 

• What obstacles and/or assistance to solving the problem come from outside organizations and stakeholder groups? What are their values and assumptions?

• How could the corporation work with outside stakeholder groups to develop, refine, and/or improve their efforts and plans to address the problem.

• What processes, strategies and methods would be most successful?

Final Paper Cycle 3

Doing Something About It: Corporate Social Action

Combine your research and analysis into a comprehensive paper that advocates for the specific corporate social action you have proposed. Your advocacy for the proposed actions should incorporate arguments based on utility and practicality, and ethical concerns. Identify the best option for action. Provide compelling arguments why it should be implemented, citing support from the semester’s readings and plenary speakers. Be sure to include a full and clear analysis of the present situation, the issue and the stakes. Describe the interests and positions of the assorted key players and stakeholders. Craft the essay to explain and support your proposal, directed at the corporation.

 

Cycle 1

PLENARY SESSION

PLENARY READINGS
Due before plenary session

INQUIRY SESSION (Tuesdays or Wednesdays)

DISCOURSE SESSION (Thursdays or Fridays)

1/24: PLENARY 1 - SKIRBALL 

Introduction to Business as a Societal Institution

George Smith, NYU Stern

Shannon Schuyler, PwC

The United States Constitution 

Additional readings as assigned

SPECIAL DISCOURSE SESSION1/26:

Introductions,  Class Overview

 

 

1/28

$20 bill exercise, writing and critical thinking frameworks

Read “Beyond Feelings...” (BF) pp. 1-13

 

1/31: PLENARY 2 - SKIRBALL 

The Corporation

George Smith, NYU Stern

 

 

R. E. Freeman’s, Managing for Stakeholders

Selection from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations

Additional readings as assigned

2/2:

The foundation and purpose of corporations as legal, organizational and social phenomena; the functional roles and powers of the corporation among societal institutions

2/4:

Frameworks for corporate activity and interactions: markets, market failure, and externalities 

Due: Journal Prompt 1

Read Thinker’s Guide to Analytical Thinking, (TGAT) pp 1-21.

2/7: PLENARY 3 - PAULSON 

Business and Markets

Steve Forbes, Forbes Media

Milton Friedman, The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Profits

Sally Blount, The Grand Illusion

Additional readings as assigned

2/9:

The meaning and purpose of profit: who has right to surpluses, are there duties attached to wealth?

2/11:

Formulating arguments on externalities: the social costs of private gains 

Due: Journal Prompt 2

TGAT pp. 26-34

2/14: PLENARY 4 - PAULSON 

Organized Philanthropy

Sir David Cannadine, Princeton University

Susan Beresford, Former President, Ford Foundation

Andrew Carnegie, Wealth

Warren Buffet, Estate Taxes (video of congressional testimony on Blackboard

Additional readings as assigned

2/16:

Measuring the efficiency and social value of charities and nonprofits; context and overlaps with the social duties of governments and corporations.

2/18:

Frameworks for societal organizations; fundamental structure of relationships between various types of institutions and stakeholder groups. 

Due: Journal Prompt 3

 TGAT pp 38-51

2/21:  (No Plenary session)

 

SPECIAL DISCOURSE SESSION2/23: 

DISCOURSE WORKSHOP: Bring drafts of Cycle 1 final paper.

2/25: 

Due: Final Paper drafts due in class

FINAL CYCLE 1 PAPER DUE FEB. 27

 

 

CYCLE 2*

PLENARY SESSION

PLENARY READINGS
Due before plenary session

INQUIRY SESSION

DISCOURSE SESSION

 

2/28: PLENARY 5 – SKIRBALL 

Business and Government
Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark

 

Manuel Velasquez, Utilitarianism: Weighing Social Costs and Benefits

Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons

Additional readings as assigned

3/2:

Consider the Incentives and dynamics in corporate / government interactions

 

 

3/4:

 “Super-Mart & City of Old-Ark” Three party role play exercise; city government, corporations, community organizations 

Rulebook for Arguments (RfA), pp 31 - 57

3/7: PLENARY 6 - PAULSON 

"Inside Job"

Charles Ferguson, Documentary Filmmaker 

 

 Robert Frank, Winner Take-all Society

Additional readings as assigned

3/9:

Alternative models and frameworks for integrating social values into corporate behavior and decision-making

3/11:

Exercise on weighing social values from the different perspectives of corporations and affected outside social groups and institutions 

Due: Journal Prompt 1

RfA pp 23-30; Beyond Feelings (BF) pp 14-24

 

3/14:  (No Plenary session) SPRING BREAK WEEK (3/14-3/18)

 

3/21:  

PLENARY 7 – SKIRBALL 

Corporate Social Responsibility

Michael Stewart, McKinsey & Co.


 

Your Money or Your Reputation: Adam Smith, the First Behavioral Economist

Ian Davis, The Biggest Contract

Additional readings as assigned

3/23:

Historical, ethical and utilitarian frameworks for CSR

 

3/25:

Identifying the range of options and models for corporations to address social demands for accountability and responsibility to stakeholder groups. 

Due: Journal Prompt 2

RfA pp 1-18

3/28:  

PLENARY 8 – SKIRBALL 

Business and Social Entrepreneurship

Jill Kickul, NYU Stern 

David Bornstein, Author 

Susan Davis, President and CEO, BRAC USA

Seelos & Mair, Social Entrepreneurship: Creating New Business Models to Serve the Poor

Robert Frank, Income Inequality is Too Big to Ignore (on Blackboard

Additional readings as assigned

3/30:

Examine business models and effectiveness of socially-oriented businesses

 

4/1:

Work on Cycle 2 paper 

Due: Final paper drafts due in class

FINAL CYCLE 2 PAPER DUE APRIL 3

RfA 59-65

 

CYCLE 3*

4/4: PLENARY 9 – SKIRBALL 

Business and Sustainability

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

*Plenary begins promptly at 7pm and will take place in Skirball Auditorium

 

Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism

Additional readings as assigned

4/6:

How social advocacy and outsider group pressure impacts decisions and motivations of shareholders, managers, directors.

4/8:

Organizing the components of advocacy: tractable issue, actionable solutions, integrative motivations for corporation and stakeholders 

 

4/11:  PLENARY 10 – PAULSON 

Corporate Compensation and Social Justice

Thomas Cooley, NYU Stern

John Rawls, The Main Idea of the Theory of Justice

For Discourse: Berger, Cunningham & Drumwright, Social Alliances: Company / Nonprofit Collaboration

Additional readings as assigned

4/13:

Should corporations take pre-emptive actions to accomplish social aims? (i.e., voluntary salary constraints, other social concerns)

 

4/15:

Exercises on organizing evidence, support and arguments for advocacy 

Discuss Social Alliances...Berger, Cunningham, Drumwright

Due: Journal Prompt 1 

4/18:  (No Plenary session)

 

SPECIAL DISCOURSE SESSION4/20:

Exercise using photo essays to develop fluency at summarizing, organizing, analyzing.

 

4/22: 

Exercises on building theories and expressing themes, theses, arguments. 

Due: Journal Prompt 2

RfA pp 73-86

BF pp.  25-34 

4/25:  PLENARY 11 – SKIRBALL 

Business and White Collar Crime

Justin Paperny, Former Investment Executive

 

Albert Carr, Is Business Bluffing Ethical?

Additional readings as assigned

4/27:

Chicken or egg: Does corporate culture create cheaters, or do cheaters manipulate corporate culture?

4/29:

Moral imperatives vs. utility as drivers of individual and corporate behavior 

Due: Journal Prompt 3 

5/2:   (No Plenary session)

 

SPECIAL DISCOURSE SESSION – 5/4:

Writing Workshop

Final Cycle 3 draft due in class for workshop

 

5/6: FINAL DISCOURSE SESSION:

Writing Workshop

Final paper drafts due in class

FINAL CYCLE 3 PAPER DUE MAY 8

 

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