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Title: Summary Statement - The Caux Round Table 2009 Scholar’s Retreat
Date: 30-Jul-2009
Category: Announcements
Description: The global community has suffered severely as a result of the economic crisis that began in 2008. It is especially disappointing that many well-educated professionals (e.g., lawyers, accountants, bankers, financial advisors, rating agency analysts, government regulators, and professors) were responsible for this failure of major financial institutions.

 

The Caux Round Table 2009 Scholar’s Retreat
Summary Statement
Caux, Switzerland, 11 July 2009


The global community has suffered severely as a result of the economic crisis that began in 2008. It is especially disappointing that many well-educated professionals (e.g., lawyers, accountants, bankers, financial advisors, rating agency analysts, government regulators, and professors) were responsible for this failure of major financial institutions.

The current financial crisis also has led to a loss of confidence in many of our leading institutions, including higher education. Professionals across the board no longer enjoy the trust that is necessary for their own success and the good of society.

In virtually every case, these professionals studied in institutions of higher learning, many of which emphasized technical competencies and practical skills, with little consideration for broader social responsibilities and expectations for principled behavior. This incomplete approach to professional education reflects a disdain for the ethical dimension of practice and was partially to blame for the recent massive market failures.

Therefore, colleges and universities have a responsibility to address their own shortcomings with a view to reform and renewal. These are the institutions that prepare the professionals who guide and influence much of modern life. With such power, these institutions must remain mindful of their duty to serve society’s best interests.

The underlying causes of the financial crisis may, in large measure, be attributable to an imprudent reliance on highly abstract mathematical models. This reflects a tendency in professional education to favor narrowly defined scientific methodologies as the principal grounds for professional inquiry and analysis, and as the best measures for practical competence. A consequence of this approach to professional practice is an instrumental focus on the short term to the exclusion of long-term considerations, which are necessary for sustainable, prosperous, and just communities.

It is just as possible to educate individuals to be responsible as to be technically adept. Graduates of professional schools should learn to serve the public interest and the common good, for true professionals integrate and balance the application of technical skills with responsiveness to the legitimate needs and interests of others. The pillars of such professionalism are (1) stewardship of the interests of others, (2) earned trust through their diligence and discipline, and (3) specialized competence to exercise autonomous discretion and informed judgment.

Through their education, professionals should learn to discern whom their decisions will affect and what those effects will be; to reflect upon the moral quality of those effects; and to act wisely upon such reflection. Thus, professional responsibility may be understood as the capacity to respond fully to the needs and interests of those who depend upon the professionals’ skills, and the ability to exercise these skills in an ethical manner. The exercise of such professional responsibility is necessary now to restore trust in vital social, political, and economic institutions.

Such robust responsiveness requires the exercise of hope, the use of reason, and the capacity to aspire to a higher good. Fortunately, we have rich resources in many wisdom traditions that speak to development of such moral capacities. These traditions implicate holistic accounts of personal identity, moral agency, and social concern that provide a reliable compass for all professional endeavors. Such vital traditions are highly relevant to the challenges of contemporary professional practice.

In addition to curricular reform, relevant scholarship, and innovative programming, institutions of higher learning must ensure that their recruitment and promotion procedures reward faculty for (1) being conversant with universal questions of human experience in the context of contemporary social and cultural challenges; (2) demonstrating an appreciation for the effects of their work beyond their disciplines; and (3) inviting broad intellectual and social engagement to shape their understanding of responsible stewardship and practice.

We, the undersigned, request that you add your assent to this statement so that we may forward it to appropriate responsible authorities within institutions for higher education.



/s/
Thomas A. Bausch, Ph.D.
Caux Round Table Fellow and
Marquette University

/s/
José Luis Fernández Fernández, Ph.D. 
Caux Round Table Fellow and
Universidad Pontificia Comillas

/s/
N. Doran Hunter, Ph.D.
Caux Round Table Fellow and
Minnesota State University, Mankato 
 
/s/
John Knapp, Ph.D. 
Caux Round Table Fellow and
Samford University

/s/
Lester A. Myers, Ph.D., J.D., CPA,* CFF
Caux Round Table Fellow and
Georgetown University

/s/
Stephen B. Young, Esq.
Global Executive Director
Caux Round Table

 


* District of Columbia, Ohio, and Virginia.



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