Restoring the NCAA


 

You can hardly turn on any television station these days without hearing about some violation or wrongdoing in the NCAA.  If you’re like me (a daily viewer of ESPN and Sportscenter, that is), then you probably see stories like this way more often than you can take.  It almost seems like any mention of the NCAA is a kiss of death at this point.  While the NCAA has always appeared to have good intentions, the execution of some of its ideas has fallen short in recent years.

A few days ago, I told a friend that I was writing a paper about the current state of the NCAA and the changes that should be made.  His response?  “The NCAA? Oh yeah, it’s nothing but corruption and doom.”  Responses like this are exactly the reasons why I chose to explore this topic further.  As a student-athlete myself, I thought the topic really hit close to home.  Check out the paper if you love sports and can never hear enough about the crazy things some people did (i.e. Derrick Rose having somebody else take his SAT).  Check out the paper if you hate sports (you’ll get to hear what the NCAA has been doing wrong).  Either way, check it out.

 

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White Paper Proposal #3 – State of the NCAA


 

 

Well, as I was going over my white paper so that I can add it to the blog later, I realized that I never actually posted my third WP proposal.  So here it is.  Better late than never…

At first, I struggled to think about how I would execute the government proposal.  I wasn’t really sure where I should look.  As I began reading up on the NCAA, though, I decided to try to find an article about its relationship with the United States Justice Department. Continue reading

Put a Smile on Your Face…Make the World a Better Place


For this week’s blog post, I wanted to come up with something really simple and seemingly trivial that I really thought could make a difference in the world one person at a time.  What I came up with was this: smile and say hello.

Now, maybe that sounds stupid.  Or maybe my Midwestern mentality painfully shines through by suggesting that people smile and say hi to strangers, but I really do think it can make a difference.  Every time somebody I don’t know takes a moment to acknowledge and greet me, or when I do the same to somebody else, I really think the innate warmth of human nature is reflected in the eyes of both of us.  In this day and age of impersonal technological communication, I think it would be great if more people could be reminded of the value of simple human interaction, especially with someone that’s not a close friend or family member.  Let’s be honest.  We’ve all had those times when we’ve inadvertently locked eyes with a complete stranger while passing him/her.  All I’m saying is rather than turning away and thinking about how awkward that eye contact was, why not just smile and say, “Hi”? Embrace the weird moment.  Maybe they’ll think you’re crazy (like if they’re from New York) or maybe they’ll love it.  Who cares?  Outside of bubbles like Bucknell/Lewisburg, you’ll probably never run into that person again.  Might as well make a good first and last impression, right?

And if you don’t buy it from me, maybe you’ll enjoy it more in musical form.

White Paper Proposal #2 – Amending the NCAA Business Model


After thinking about my white paper topic more deeply, and after some feedback from Jordi, I realized that the possibility of paying college athletes is not the issue in question but rather a possible solution to the existing issue.  I realized that the real problem is the deteriorating structure of, and as this Sports Illustrated article posits, the failing business model of the NCAA. Continue reading

Paper #2 – Target: Hitting the Ethical Bulls Eye?


 

 

For my second paper, I decided to examine Target’s recent practices from an ethical perspective, specifically involving Donaldson’s/Shue’s correlative duties.  Enjoy!

INTRODUCTION

As a member of Ethisphere’s “Most Ethical Companies” list for the past six years, Minneapolis-based Target Corp. is clearly doing something right.  Target’s corporate responsibility website lists the following three things under the heading, “What We Stand For”: a legacy of giving and service; strong, healthy, safe communities; and a great place to work. Fortune’s 2012 World’s Most Admired Companies list honored Target for its efforts, which seems to indicate that it has experienced some success in achieving these goals.  By examining both the criticism and praise of Target, and by taking into account Shue and Donaldson’s correlative duties, I will determine whether the company has truly acted in an ethical way in recent years and whether it has lived up to the duties these two ethicists outline.

CRITICISM 

Over the past decade or so, Target has found itself at the center of a multitude of complaints.  In 2004, Target joined other large retail companies (e.g. Home Depot and Best Buy) in banning Salvation Army from soliciting on its premises.  In a report by NBC News, Target claimed that by banning SA, it was only enforcing existing rules against solicitation.  This ban was company-wide and was taken into effect at all 1,300 Target stores in the United States.  This move by Target produced a lot of backlash.  Restricting a charitable organization from seeking donations was seen as heartless and unethical by many, a sentiment made only worse by the Salvation Army’s claim that the ban would cost it $9 million in donations over that year.  These critics threatened to – and in some cases, decided to – boycott Target stores.  Although Target executives and officials remained relatively quiet about the decision and its obvious effects, they did issue a statement pointing out that their organization gives about $100 million annually to various charities – one of which is the Salvation Army.

In August 2010, Target’s popularity suffered an even larger blow when the company donated $150,000 to MN Forward.  This group had run an ad supporting Tom Emmer, a candidate in the Minnesota governor race who had openly opposed gay rights.  By supporting MN Forward, it appeared that Target was indirectly – yet openly – supporting Emmer’s message.  This apparent support infuriated proponents of gay rights and led to very vocal dissent from the community.  In light of the negative response, Target CEO Greg Steinhafel was forced to make a public apology and swore that he would review any future political campaign contributions much more closely.  Interestingly enough, according to a Huffington Post article, Target continued to donate to politicians who were openly against gay rights even after Steinhafel’s apology.  Among these politicians were those whom the company had already been criticized for supporting.  According to Target’s Political Action Committee (PAC), the corporation “recorded $41,200 in federal election activity. Of that total, $31,200 went to anti-gay rights politicians or PACs supporting those candidates” (Linkins).  There were additional questionable donations made, including one made to Spencer Bachus – who voted against same-sex adoption – and Michigan’s David Camp – who supported a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage and voted against protecting gays from job discrimination based on their sexual identity.  These political affiliations were significant blemishes on the record of Target’s seemingly pristine record.

The final incident for which Target received a lot of criticism involved Andrew Pole, who was a statistician for the corporation.  He was challenged with finding out a way to determine whether a female customer is pregnant before she wants anyone to know.  Now, as the New York Times piece that broke this news reported, collecting customer data was not a new practice for Target (or many other large corporations, for that matter).  In fact, each shopper who entered a Target store is given a Guest ID.  Linked to this Guest ID is a range of information, from demographic classifications to payment method.  In addition to this information, Target has the opportunity to purchase even more information from external parties that it cannot collect on its own.  Andrew Pole was responsible for analyzing all of this data. He was able to find approximately 25 products that, when considered as a group, allowed him to assign shoppers a “pregnancy prediction” score that quantified the likelihood of that shopper being pregnant.  He was able to apply this information to every shopper in Target’s database.  About a year after Pole began implementing his model, a man walked into a Target store outside of Minneapolis.  He was infuriated because Target had been sending his daughter coupons for items such as baby clothes and cribs.  In his opinion, Target was encouraging her to get pregnant.  After apologizing that day, the manager called back a few days later to apologize again; he was met, however, with an apology on behalf of the father who had found out that his daughter was indeed pregnant.  Pole’s model had worked.  When the Times released this story, it was met with significant disapproval.  Many customers felt as though Target’s marketing efforts were invasive and overly intrusive.  They felt that Target was invading their private lives and was attempting to bolster sales in an unethical manner.

APPROVAL 

Along with the criticism it has received over the past decade, Target has also received plenty of praise.  The Target website lists the following as the corporation’s areas of commitment: education, environment, health & well-being, team members, responsible sourcing, safety & preparedness, and volunteerism.  Along these lines, in 1997, Target established the School Fundraising program, through which it makes semi-annual donations to K-12 schools.  Target has continued to act through this program and, according to its website, donated more than $100 million for education in 2011.  The company’s goal is to give $1 billion for education by the end of the fiscal year 2015.  With a current total of $679 million, Target is well on its way to meeting its goal.  This attention to the community was likely part of the reason behind Ethisphere’s decision to name Target to its list of the most ethical companies. Overall, Target has largely been praised for its attention to diversity.  As Knowmore.org reports, since 1999, Target has had an Employer’s Pledge that outlines basic standards by which the work environment at Target must abide.  This accurately represents its commitment to the team members’ happiness.  Additionally, Target has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation.  This apparent attention to gay rights directly contradicts with its later payment of political candidates, but nonetheless Target was recognized for its efforts in 2004 when it received a score 86 on the Human Rights Campaign 2004 Corporate Equality Index.  This measure rates companies on their policies that deal with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender direct stakeholders.  In regards to the environment, Target uses sustainable practices across many sectors of its business and continues to focus on improvement in this realm.  The other aspects of Target’s commitment continue to garner focus as well.

ETHICAL ANALYSIS

Taking into account all of Target’s recent actions, both those that drew criticism and those that drew praise, I reason that Target has not fulfilled its corporate obligations as outlined by Donaldson.  In accordance with Shue, Donaldson outlines three correlative duties that all individuals and corporate entities have: “the duty to avoid depriving people of their rights…the duty to help protect people from such deprivation…[and] the duty to aid those who are deprived” (Hartman 163).   He then goes on to argue that a fourth category of correlative duty exists: the duty of “avoiding helping to deprive” (Hartman 165).  This is more of an indirect duty, but Donaldson argues that it is just as important as the other three categories.

In regards to the first duty, Target has both shone and failed.  Nowhere in its history has Target actively deprived a group of its basic rights.  Even in the case of the Salvation Army solicitation ban, Target has a right to decide who may or may not be present on its premises; thus, by banning Salvation Army it was not depriving the charity of any of its basic rights as is commonly believed.  In other aspects of its business, Target has consistently fought to ensure people have their basic rights, as evidenced by its non-discrimination policy.  Donaldson would find that, in some respects, Target has acted perfectly in accord with its first correlative duty.  Similarly, through the efforts of Pole and Target’s marketing team, people are (in a sense) being deprived of their right to privacy.  By so closely examining consumers’ purchase behavior and buying habits, Target is inserting itself into people’s lives in a way in which it had not previously been welcome.  It consumers have no say in this matter; therefore, they are being deprived of their basic rights.

The second correlative duty – the duty to help protect people from deprivation – was not as clearly carried out by Target.  By donating to politicians who were openly anti-gay rights, Target was not protecting those in the LGBT community from discrimination.  On the other hand, it could be argued that Target was funding their discrimination.  By supporting the campaigns of candidates who did to support gay rights, Target was voicing its preference for that candidate.  In other words, Target wanted these candidates to win so that its investments were not in vain.  If those candidates were to win, then gay rights would not be enforced; thus, Target was in no way helping to protect the general population from deprivation.

Target’s success in following the third duty is relatively evident.  On one hand, Target has programs in place, such as its School Fundraising program, to aid those who are less fortunate.  It is clearly concerned with aiding those who need it. Target is a very charitable company and has only proven so in recent years with its continued attention to community relief.  The corporation as a whole has constantly demonstrated its intent to aid those who are deprived.

Target runs into some problems when looking at the fourth duty.  Target’s ban of Salvation Army solicitation goes directly against Donaldson’s fourth correlative duty.  Despite the fact that Target donates money directly to Salvation Army each year, by banning the charity from soliciting additional donations outside of Target stores, Target (as previously mentioned) is depriving SA of a significant amount of money.  Thus, it can be argued that Target is not avoiding helping to deprive those people that the Salvation Army serves.

CONCLUSION

All in all, Target has experienced its fair share of ups and downs in recent years.  When taking those things that the public has frowned upon and those things that the public has encouraged into account, one can examine the behavior of Target using Donaldson’s correlative duties and find that there is a bit of a mixed verdict.  Target has done things to both follow and go against these duties; however, I think Donaldson would argue that the magnitude of the ways in which Target has gone against its duties far outweighs the magnitude of the ways in which Target has carried out its duties.  As outlined above, in cases where the company seems to have done things that both support and contradict its duties, the ways in which Target has shirked its duties seem to occur at a worse degree.  Donaldson would say that Target has failed to carry out its obligations and corporate responsibility.

Works Cited

Duhigg, Charles. “Psst, You in Aisle 5.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?pagewanted=1&gt;.

Hartman, Edwin M. “Donaldson on Rights and Corporate Obligations.” Multinational Corporate Responsibility (n.d.): 163-72.

Linkins, Jason. “Target Continues To Make The Political Donations They Had Previously Apologized For Making.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 21 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/21/target-continues-political-donations_n_799950.html&gt;.

Target.com

Teague, Don. “Target Bans Salvation Army Solicitations.” Msnbc.com. Msnbc Digital Network, 13 Dec. 2004. Web. 10 Nov. 2012.

They Get Paid How Much??


For my white paper, I will be examining the issue of compensating college athletes (outside of the the scholarships that already exist).  This image presents various salaries and revenues from icons/organizations such as University of Texas head football coach Mack Brown, Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino, and the NBA (among others).  The purpose of the chart, which came from a New York Times piece, is to show the extremely high salaries that these coaches and leagues receive.  If they earn such large amounts of money, the Times article argues that athletes deserve to be paid as well because they are really the people who are generating the revenue.  In fact, the image even shows that (in the case of Texas) the head coach is paid more than the combined value of all players’ scholarships.  This is a very to-the-point, simple graphic that very effectively portrays the argument of the entire article.

White Paper Proposal #1 – Compensation of College Athletes


For my white paper, I will be writing about the compensation of college athletes.  I want to look into each side more deeply before I decide which I will argue, but there are definitely compelling arguments for both why athletes should be paid in excess of their scholarships and why they should not.

I think the best way to begin the paper would be to examine the notion of exploitation.  Are college athletes used as workhorses?  Are they actually exploited, or are the scholarships they receive enough to justify their workload?  The answer to this question will be the impetus for the rest of my paper — if they are exploited, then perhaps additional compensation is the answer; if not, then perhaps no change is necessary.  Whatever my decision may be, there is plenty of evidence to support both sides.  As a college athlete myself, I want to make this decision based on evidence I find, rather than on my own personal experiences.

Current thinking on this subject is very split — there are people who believe that although many college athletes receive scholarships for their athletic efforts, they still need and deserve more money because of the amount of revenue their schools generate because of them.  If they are a large part of these profits, why shouldn’t they get to reap some of the benefits?  On the other hand, people against the idea of additional compensation argue that athletes have various inherent advantages over their respective classmates.

Finding resources from the society angle of this issue has proven to be relatively easy.  Taylor Branch, a writer for The Atlantic and a renowned civil rights historian, wrote a very thorough examination of the system.  His entire point was that college sports as a business have become very corrupt — that the structure of college athletics has led to a system in which athletes generate tons of money and then get none of it for themselves.  There was another large piece in The New York Times (courtesy of Joe Nocera) that argues for the payment of athletes.  This piece presents a multitude of evidence, and focuses a lot on the amount that college coaches are paid (often millions of dollars in big-time programs) vs. their players ($0 outside of scholarships).  An additional piece from Forbes claims the current state of college athletics resembles “indentured servitude” and should end immediately.

There are also plenty of resources that outline arguments for why college athletes should not be paid.  A New York Mag article argues that proponents of compensation want to enact these reforms in order to save college athletics.  Paying athletes, the author argues, will not actually have any effect on this goal.  Doug Gottlieb, a popular ESPN analyst, wrote a short piece arguing that college athletes receive many other benefits.  The NCAA itself has also released countless articles describing its reasoning for not allowing athletes to be paid.

Depending on my position, I would need to consider if there are other reforms that have the same effect.  For now, though, I think I have a lot of opinions to examine and lots of evidence for both sides of this ongoing argument.

Does Target Hit the Bulls-Eye?


For my paper #2, I am thinking about focusing on the business ethics of Target.  I thought it would be interesting to look at one of the main competitors for a company that we have talked extensively about (Walmart).  Target is arguably Walmart’s biggest rival, so I want to see if Target has had any of the same struggles that Walmart has. Continue reading

You Look Illegal…Show Me Your Papers


Last month, District Judge Susan Bolton ruled that police authorities in Arizona could enforce what is arguably one of the most divisive provisions of the state’s immigration law.  As CNN reported, this “show me your papers” provision essentially gives police the power to call someone’s immigration status into question if they simply believe that they do not have the legal documents to verify it — namely, that they seem to be in the country illegally. Continue reading