Why Business Schools Should Be Required to Teach Human Rights


For most college students, if you're reading Toni Morrison's Beloved, a story inspired by a slave who briefly escaped with her children in 1856, you're probably a liberal arts major in a literature course.

This isn't the case if you're attending Babson College, a private business school where students take 50% of their courses in the liberal arts. Beloved is one of associate professor Elizabeth Goldberg's favorite required reading materials.

Goldberg told PolicyMic that her interdisciplinary human rights course uses literature as a lens through which to discuss the social problems. Studying these problems can help future business leaders understand business' positive impact on human rights.

Students educated with a combined liberal arts and business approach will "come out more equipped to handle the big problems [like] poverty, health care and war" because they've been aware of these problems since college, she said.

"The way we talk about entrepreneurship is not about venture creation, per say, but through the lens of what we here at Babson would call 'entrepreneurial thought and action.'"

"[I tell my students], 'You are going to be the business people. You are going to be the ones determining labor practices ... ethical checks and balances around who is working, how they are recognized [and] how they are compensated,'" Goldberg told PolicyMic. That's a big responsibility that affects everyone in the global economy.

But Babson is not the only business program that teaches students their role and responsibilities in the world.

Belmont University and New York University have programs geared at social entrepreneurship and Tulane University offers a minor in social innovation and entrepreneurship.

So why has social entepreneurship gained so much momentum in recent years? The expecation that businesses should be more responsible comes from a backlash in the recent recession. While young people today are financially risk adverse, we value quality of life much more than we do money. Our generation prefers to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Hence, consumers today feel a responsibility to research the companies they support and in order for new businesses to compete, they need to put purpose before profit. As a result of the changes in consumer expectations, business schools need to teach students about the social responsibilities of owning a business.

Hopefully, the union of business and social good is not just a trend, but will become the new status quo for both educators and graduates.