‘Enron Debacle’ sparks debate on campus

By Jana Fagotti
October 3, 2002

Faculty and students gathered in Grace Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 24, to witness “the Enron Debacle,” a faculty forum between professors Mary Harris, Harvey Lape and Ann Servey.

While most students are focusing on their own studies rather than what is going on in the economy, this month’s faculty forum gave both faculty and students a chance to become informed on Enron, the energy company which recently filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. The one-hour event was focused on the bankruptcy of Enron, why it happened, and answered the question: Is business ethics an oxymoron?

Enron filed for bankruptcy, and sent the economy into a complete downward spiral as stocks went from $87 to 99 cents. Arthur Andersen, Enron’s auditing firm, is on trial for charges of obstruction of justice for the shredding of important Enron documents while the business was going through a federal investigation. This historic plummet will affect the future of business in America.

Lape, a philosophy professor, began the discussion by stating his point of view on Enron. “It’s not a failure of ethics. It’s a regulatory failure,” Lape said. He hopes that this crisis will put an end to Albert Carr’s poker analogy, which argues that deception is part of business. “There were no ethics. They are needed,” Lape said.

Harris, an assistant professor of finance, used analogies to help the students who attended the forum better understand the scandal. Harris said that, “Analysts are finding that they were wrong in telling people to buy.” She disagreed with Lape, “It was the fraudulent nature that caused bankruptcy. We have regulatory issues in place,” Harris said.

Ann Servey, business administrator and certified public accountant, agreed with Harris, saying that the downfall of Enron was, “not regulatory failure.” Servey believes that enforcements were not met within the company. “There are many gray areas. However, integrity can accommodate the invertent error.”

Their insights were undoubtedly impacting the faculty and students. Dr. Joseph Romano, professor of philosophy, pointed out that, as a result of Enron, “the burden is put on the consumer.”

Regardless of their differences and concerns about what caused Enron’s bankruptcy, the three professors see it as being an example to all businesses worldwide. Servey said that the impact is “obvious, not just Enron.” The lasting effects of the opinions of Servey, Lape and Harris will hopefully spark and inspire economic concern among both students and faculty who attended.

The Enron Corporation is holding an auction in which computers, telecommunications equipment, office furniture and even the “E” in the corporation sign are being auctioned off.

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Jana Fagotti

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