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Ethics heart of NIU competition

DeKALB – A new salesman hopes to land a huge account for his company, but in exchange he’s asked to compromise ethical standards by offering a bribe.

That was one of the scenarios posed to students who competed Friday in Northern Illinois University’s Ethics Case Competition. NIU students, as well as students from Rockford Lutheran, Rockford Christian and Geneva high schools, participated in the second annual competition through the NIU College of Business.

Teams of two tackled two ethical questions – one for NIU students and one for high school students. Partners Abbey Vanderwoude and Nick Lo Vetere, NIU students majoring in business with an emphasis in marketing, didn’t make it to the final round, but said they enjoyed the experience.

They said their scenario involved a salesman who was sent to eastern Europe to close a $50 million contract with a company. However, he was asked to bring along about $7,000 worth of whiskey to the contract signing.

“I found it to be insightful. I’m going into sales and it’s based around a salesman who’s in a new position trying to get a crucial contract,” Lo Vetere said. “Whether it’s at that magnitude or not, it seems like a likely scenario we’re going to encounter at some point.”

Students had to analyze the situation on legal, financial and philosophical levels before making a final recommendation for what the salesman should do. They were given 10 minutes to give a presentation, which they prepared for a few weeks ahead of time.

Winners from NIU were marketing major Justin Jawor and biochemistry major Glen Svenningsen. First-, second- and third-place winners at the college level were awarded cash prizes. Zane Anderson and Jake Milbourn from Rockford Lutheran High School took first place at the high school level, and teams from Geneva High School took second and third place.

The competition was hosted by the BELIEF Initiative, or Building Ethical Leaders Using an Integrated Ethics Framework. Students who participated gave a 10-minute presentation before a panel of judges. The top three high school and college teams with the most creative, feasible and ethical solutions were moved on to the final round, where they gave a shortened five-minute presentation.

“It’s a good way to get outside of your comfort zone,” said Wasil Pahuchy, a member of the Leaders in Ethics and Academic Discipline student organization that’s a branch of the BELIEF Initiative. “It uses a lot more critical thinking.”

NIU senior Ika Lambogo, who majors in operations management and information systems, made it to the final round with her partner, graduate accounting major Pamela Pauw. They recommended that the salesman in the scenario refuse to give the bribe, but still meet with the prospective client.

They recommended “he ask the client to continue with the deal, because there’s not harm in that,” Lambogo said.

They also suggested that the salesman work with the company to develop a global policy regarding bribes, so everyone goes by the same set of rules.

“I think this will be useful as we are graduating soon in the business world,” Pauw said.

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