Business department hosts annual ethics symposium with FBI speaker Oliver Halle

On Wednesday, March 25, in the Fiesta Room, the business department hosted an ethics symposium with various speakers, talking on the issues of external and internal pressures in the lives of individuals. The first and main speaker was Oliver G. Halle, a retired FBI special agent who spent 28 years with the Bureau, spoke about the pressures facing various individuals, including his close friend, and other speaker Josh Kenyon.

The talks, organized as the ethics symposium, is part of an annual effort by the business department to encourage and engage students in meaningful discussion on various issues, not just in the business department, but across campus.

“The ethics symposium is part of the ongoing commitment of the school of business to involve students directly in ethical issues because that is critical to what we do,” said Richard Butler, professor of economics and interim dean of the school of business.

“Every single person has what we call internal pressures in their lives. Internal pressures include things like family problems, substance abuse, alcoholism, gambling addictions, health issues, divorce,” Halle said. “Everyone in this room is probably affected by some of these categories. Those internal pressures can skew your judgement in everyday life.”

Halle went on to elaborate on the focus of the lecture, that being external pressures.

“Then there are external pressures; this is the one that you as students are going to see when you get into the real world, into the workplace,” Halle said. “Human beings resemble elements that are changeable according to temperature, just how water only exists in a certain temperature range and as a steam in others so human beings can become different people according to extremes of circumstances.”

This point was later reiterated by the third speaker,  Diann Cattani, who focused on why people may often commit fraud or other unethical actions.

“If you really think why you don’t commit fraud or cheat on a test? What are those reasons you don’t?,” Cattani said. “A lot of people are afraid of getting caught, going to prison, disappointing whoever, those are more of your external pressures. Then you have your internal pressures like its just wrong, I was brought up that way; of course a person more likely to commit fraud is someone more motivated by external pressures.”

Oliver continued on to the focus of the talk, titled “Taking the Harder Right”, which comes from the Cadet Prayer of West Point.

“It comes from the cadet prayer of the military academy from West Point which says in part “˜make me to chose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, to never be content with a half truth when the whole truth can be won,'” Halle said.

Halle then offered various analogies to his idea of having a moral code and “taking the harder right.”

“You can have the most beautiful building in the world, architecturally, it stands out,” Halle said. “But if the foundations of that building aren’t strong it’s coming down as soon as a hurricane, tornado or other event hits. You need the underpinnings of a strong ethical guide.”

Speaking from experience, Halle then told the story of a corruption case in South Atlanta, Georgia, where, alongside various politicians, his friend and FBI source, Romeo Mike, was convicted of fraud and accepting bribes. Romeo Mike was then introduced as the second speaker, Josh Kenyon, who spoke about his experience in the situation and the lessons he learned about ethics and standing up for himself following a period in prison.

“The number one reason why people go along with that is that people say they are scared not to be perceived as a team player,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon noted how he attempted to rationalize his actions during the time, and how once he stepped over into unethical territory it was hard not to get caught up in it all.

“Throughout your careers you will likely face a lot of ethical challenges from co-workers and outside pressures and the key is not to get caught up and go with it because it can overwhelm you before you know it,” Kenyon said. “I would say to really be strong and firm and even take drastic action if you need to pull yourself out of that situation.”