The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Education costs money, but then so does ignorance.   .....Sir Claus Moser, 21 August 1990

Commentary of the Day - October 3, 1999:

A Question of Ethics:

Many college and university presidents serve on corporate boards of directors and industrial advisory boards.  The Irascible Professor finds nothing inherently wrong with such service provided that it does not cause significant conflicts of interest.  However, California State University Chancellor Charles B. Reed's membership on the Executive Advisory Board of the SCT Corporation raises troubling questions. SCT is a major supplier of enterprise software to institutions of higher education.  The California State University system is a potential client for SCT.  In fact, as the largest system of public higher education in the world, the CSU has the potential to be a major customer of SCT.

As Chancellor, Reed obviously has significant influence over major purchases of enterprise software for the system.  Thus, in the Irascible Professor's opinion, the Chancellor should not only avoid actual conflicts of interest in such matters, but also should avoid the appearance of conflicts.  The question is then "does Chancellor Reed's service on the Executive Advisory Board of the SCT Corporation create the appearance of such a conflict?"

In fairness, CSU Chancellor Reed is not the only high-ranking executive from public higher education on the SCT Executive Advisory Board.  Others include Robert S. Blacklow, M.D, who is President and Dean of the Northeaster Ohio Universities College of Medicine; Molly  Corbett Broad, who is President of the University of North Carolina; Adam W. Herbert, who is Chancellor of the State University System of Florida; James H. McCormick, who is Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; Irving Pressley McPhail, who is Chancellor of the Community College of Baltimore County; Dan Moriarty, who is President of Portland Community College; and Dr. Irvin D. Reid, who is President of Wayne State University.  In addition, presidents from several private institutions serve on the SCT Executive Advisory Board.  However, the Irascible Professor's primary concern is with members who are from public institutions.  These folks, in the IP's humble opinion, have a special responsibility to the taxpayers who fund their institutions to ensure that all potential vendors are treated fairly, and that decisions about major purchases are based on objective analyses of the competence of the vendor, and the intrinsic value of the vendor's products.  There should be no suspicion that purchases are influenced in any way by special relationships that high administrators may have with the vendor.  That should have been covered in Ethics 101!


The Irascible Professor invites your comments.
©1999 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro