Books and Coffee: Universities, Business Ethics, and CSR

This blog was previously posted on LinkedIn.
Hands_MuralHow will corporations make it easier for workers to increase their knowledge about the world? Higher education as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one possibility.

Starbucks’ attempt to support employees’ academic education is, in my opinion, one example of CSR. I do not know the inside story of how the coffee giant and Arizona State University brokered the deal to support barista-student learning. But, educators and CSR managers will want to know more.

Why is this interesting?

First, much scholarship exists on corporations and the impact they have on universities (Buchbinder & Newson, 1990, and Nixon & Helms, 2002). However, scholarship on this topic generally brings up the question of university autonomy and corporate expectation. This is interesting from an educational and a business ethics standpoint. Business executives and university executives/professors, and employees and students may consider the various outcomes when corporations and educational institutions align.

Second, a corporation focusing on higher education completion for employees may indicate a shift in CSR from environmental concerns to that of investment in the individual for the common good.

What other CSR trends might emerge?

One emerging trend might be employers encouraging workers to develop new knowledge and skills outside of the work place. Once the workplace was the site for training, but perhaps things are changing. Training has new meaning, or training does not have the relevancy it once had. Instead, the focus may shift to learning and personal development.

Background

Historically, the private sector in the United States has generously supported higher education of MBAs and many other professionals seeking advanced degrees, and the CSR phenomenon is catching interest overseas, too (Matten & Moon, 2008).

Research question

What will happen when businesses extend their philanthropic support to undergraduate students as opposed to graduate and professional students?

Rationale

A Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) business-school ethics class might tackle these questions and in doing so, might re-ignite interest on the topic of business ethics. Business ethics as a topic, it has been argued, has suffered from lack of popularity, in the past (Matten & Moon, 2004).

Conclusion

A well-educated workforce accepts specialists and generalists, alike.

More companies supporting the efforts of their employees to attain a college degree means an increase in the number of workers who may have the potential to broaden their knowledge of the world beyond work.

Increased knowledge may translate into increased opportunity for workers and college graduates to create sustainable, socially responsible outcomes for more people.

References

Buchbinder, H., & Newson, J. (1990). Corporate-university linkages in Canada: Transforming a public institution. Higher Education, 20(4), 355-379.

Matten, D., & Moon, J. (2008). “Implicit” and “explicit” CSR: A conceptual framework for a comparative understanding of corporate social responsibility. Academy of management Review, 33(2), 404-424.

Matten, D., & Moon, J. (2004). Corporate social responsibility education in Europe. Journal of business Ethics, 54(4), 323-337.

Nixon, J. C., & Helms, M. M. (2002). Corporate universities vs higher education institutions. Industrial and Commercial Training, 34(4), 144-150.

Would you like to know more about this topic? Contact Gail Taylor, researcher, writer, blogger, instructor, and #OFAFellow.

Social Media as Medium for a Message about the Environment: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

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Climate change, peak oil, reduce, reuse, recycle, simple living, these terms that I grew up hearing as a kid in West Virginia and Ohio are still relevant, today.

Research out of Great Britain shows, shows that a strategy of less consumption is associated with basic grassroots environmentalism (Whitmarsh, 2009). Researchers in Japan found that when newspapers focused more attention on environmental news, the public paid more attention to environmental initiatives. However, how best to inform the public about the topic of climate change is an area that needs more research.

Independent non-profits such as the legendary Greenpeace, and the new Organizing for Action, use social media and special events to raise public awareness about climate change.

One hypothesis may be that social media is replacing newspapers as the medium whereby most people receive information about the topic of climate change.

Social media seems to provide the kind of immediacy on the topic of climate change that traditional print media does not provide and therefore offers a fast method for getting out the message. The Tweet below from OFA demonstrates the phenomenon of issue-oriented Tweeting:

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References

Sampei, Y., & Aoyagi-Usui, M. (2009). Mass-media coverage, its influence on public awareness of climate-change issues, and implications for Japan’s national campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Global Environmental Change, 19(2), 203-212.

Whitmarsh, L. (2009). Behavioural responses to climate change: Asymmetry of intentions and impacts. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 29(1), 13-23.

Should you have additional questions about climate change and social media, contact researcher, Gail Taylor. OFAction Summer Fellow.

What about Zizek? Or, When Will We Hear from Humanities Departments about This Incident?

Gosh. Being a humanities scholar kind of feels creepy now.

Anyone involved in the academic field of the humanities knows how difficult it can be to raise questions about scholarship within the field. Question-raising is controversial. What a paradox. Humanities scholars are trained to think critically.

Yet, there is a perverse element of hero-worshiping and a weird emphasis on repetition that is associated with the field of the humanities. Worshipping intellectual rock-stars can make raising questions about the field’s superstars dangerous.

In 2011, when I was writing my doctoral qualifying examinations, I raised a question about Slavoj Zizek. My question-raising provoked a major freak out amongst my faculty. I had no idea that I was treading on dangerous territory. But I learned.

However, now I feel confident that my questioning was leading somewhere. This is because general news outlets are reporting that the esteemed, yet controversial, critical theorist, Zizek, may have committed academic theft (read about it here and here) it would appear that all is quiet from the secretive halls of ivy.

That is to say, there seems to be no reaction, outwardly anyway, from humanities scholars about this alleged incidence of misappropriation.

Zizkek, himself, has responded to the incident, as you may see here.

Silent Peers

What to make of this silence from established humanities departments? Does anyone know of any humanities department leaders who are speaking publicly about the Zizek case of alleged plagiarism? What about Zizek’s rebuttal where he denies the charge of academic theft, while at the same time expressing sorrow?

Why have established scholars been slow to respond?

Maybe everybody’s on vacation.

(Or afraid.)

Starbucks, Zizek, and Scholars of Color

There are days when I think the microscope under which the humanities seem to be placed is unnecessary, and statist. But news of the possibility that Zizek may have taken text that appeared in a journal of possibly suspect ideology, seems to warrant further investigation.

I also wonder what scholars who might consider themselves people of color think about this controversy?

Here is a video of Zizek with Tariq Ramadan. What is to be made of such a dialogic between these two intellectuals?

Should scholars of color stop reading Zizek, or invite him to tea?

If Zizek were to join me at the Starbucks in Southern California where I sit listening to hippy music whilst writing this blog post, I would have lots of questions for him.

First, I would ask him if he has ever dated anyone who is African, or African American, or anyone who is of a representative group of peoples historically displaced due to either a). genocide, or b). post-colonialism.

I would ask him questions about empathy and compassion for the Other. I would ask him about fear and whether that had anything to do with his alleged plagiarism.

Finally, I also would ask him about what role isolation plays in his life.

Depending on how he would react to these questions, I then might learn a lot about his world view. Then, I would probe, further.

I really want to know what Zizek thinks about diversity. I want him to come to my university in California and talk about diversity.

I would ask Zizek whether he thinks there is enough diversity of thought in fields like critical theory, cultural studies, and cultural politics. I would ask whether now is the time for critical evaluation of these academic fields and the institutions which house them.

Coda

When thinking about Zizek, I stress the importance of paying attention to the humanities, and to the people engaged in the humanities tradition. The field appears to be undergoing rapid change.

Chaotic change, even.

Conclusion

Evaluation needed

Without critical institutional reflection, the humanities risk obsolescence.

Anyone who disagrees with this statement is welcome to help me organize a conference on the topic of Critical Self-Reflection in The Humanities and the Obsolescence of Post-Structural Thought. Scholars who have raised questions about Zizek may be invited to speak on the subject of Zizek. Scholars who have not questioned Zizek, may also speak. Zizek, himself, might want to attend, and participate.

Since Zizek is accused of possibly plagiarizing text from a journal that may be described as one that promotes an ideology of reductivism, why not critically interrogate the field of knowledge to which he is attached?

Questions may be asked about diversity of contributors to this field of knowledge. Are there any people who are unlike him in the field, and if so, how do they differ?

Other alternatives include launching research initiatives to investigate, problematize, and catalog paradoxical and conflicting Zizekianisms.

Thoughts?

Hair Healing: Wig Stylist Alisa Castleberry

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After surviving a formidable health crisis, a California woman shares her talents for wig styling. Please click the link to see the video.

In this post, I briefly discuss how I’ve spent the Summer.

My Summer research project is hair salon culture. A small business in Southern California emphasizes organic hair care. Some of the staff members have suffered health challenges such as cancer and obesity. Therefore, the salon, called the Healthy Hair Bar& Wigs, emphasizes good quality-of-life choices when it comes to styling hair. No harsh chemicals are used on hair at this salon. Clients and staff may use heat treatments to attain straight hair styles, but without the use of chemicals that change the natural curl pattern of the hair.

Method

Action research through the creation and production of ethnographic video and audio recordings provide an opportunity to observe and record hair salon culture.

After obtaining the necessary permissions, I conducted oral interviews with clients and staff, and I made one video of a staff member. I also distributed surveys to clients and staff, and recorded oral interviews with clients and staff. I then coded data into SPSS software for analysis in order to write a research paper.

If you have an interest in my research on salon culture, please contact me, Gail Taylor.

Smoking Advertisements in July 2014 Vogue

Shocked and saddened by the advertisements for smoking in Vogue this month (July, 2014). Publishers of women’s fashion magazines risk alienating healthy-lifestyle advocates by publishing such advertisements.

Women’s health, and the health of men and children needs more attention.

Vogue, it’s about: Priorities.

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