Your university's vice president for student life summons you to meet with her and the university's vice president for institutional advancement. The vice president explains that Bob Grates, an alumnus of the university, trustee of the board, and the CEO of Nothing but Net (NBN), a major high-technology company, has approached the university. This company is interested in a long-term relationship with your university, which will result in giving NBN the inside track into the university's "best and brightest" computer science and M.I.S. graduates.
NBN proposes to finance all of the technology needs for your career services office for the next 10 years, as well as provide a sizeable endowment for the career services office. The company will also fund scholarships and faculty research. In exchange, the career center will be renamed the "NBN Career Center" and the career services director is expected to place the NBN logo on all of his office's publications and on the office's web site. NBN will have permission to use the University's logo on its web site. Finally, NBN will have first option regarding on-campus recruiting dates and table locations at job fairs, and it will be permitted to sponsor an exclusive minority internship for African-Americans only. The VP for institutional advancement obviously is ecstatic about this and hopes that you will work with Mr. Grates to meet his requirements. What say you?
Questions to consider:
- What are the legal/ethical issues in this situation?
- What are your options? What are the pros and cons of those options?
- Is there additional information you might try to get or need in order to reach a conclusion on how to proceed?
Steps to Resolution
1. What relevant facts are known?
a) The company CEO is interested in establishing a long-term relationship with the university.
b) The company has offered to provide funding for the career services office, scholarships, and faculty research and sponsor an exclusive minority internship.
c) The VP for institutional advancement supports this proposal from the company CEO.
However, we do not know the following:
a) The company's history of involvement on your campus, i.e. have they hired students, what has been their recruiting activity up to this point, have they given scholarships or grants, sponsored class projects, other funds they have contributed?
b) If the company is stable - as we well know, many high-tech firms are "here today, and gone tomorrow".
c) Your VP's feelings about this proposal.
2. Identify the NACE Principles in question.
a) The Preamble to the Principles for Professional Conduct includes the following precepts:
* "Maintain an open and free selection of employment opportunities in an atmosphere conducive to objective thought, where job candidates can choose optimum long-term uses of their talents that are consistent with personal objectives and all relevant facts."
* "Maintain a recruitment process that is fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations."
* "Support informed and responsible decision making by candidates."
b) Principles for Career Services Professionals #4 - Career services professionals shall provide generally comparable services to all employers, regardless of whether the employer contribute services, gifts, or financial support to the educational institution or office and regardless of the level of such support.
c) Principles for Career Services Professionals #12 - Career services professionals shall promote and encourage acceptance of these principles throughout their educational institution, and shall respond to reports of noncompliance.
d) Principles for Employment Professionals #4 - Neither employment professionals nor their organizations shall expect, or seek to extract, special favors or treatment which would influence the recruitment process as a result of support, or the level of support, to the educational institution or career services office in the form of contributed services, gifts, or other financial support.
e) Position Statement on the Ethical Considerations of the Commercialization of Career Services and College Student Recruitment Functions - Written by the Principles for Professional Conduct Committee and citing all of the foregoing Principles and precepts, staff and employers are urged to "act in the overall best interest of their mutual customer - the student" by making every effort not to compromise the duty that career services offices have to provide full and equal service to student and to employers. Specifically, "if employer funds provide greater prominence to the names and opportunities of specific organizations and their industries, the career center has an obligation to make every effort to provide students not interested in these specific organizations or industries with contact and/or information about alternate employers in keeping with their needs and interests".
3. What are the legal/ethical issues in this situation?
From an ethical perspective, what Mr. Grates is proposing is essentially buying access to students. Principle 4 states: Career services professionals shall provide generally comparable services to all employers, regardless of whether the employers contribute services, gifts, or financial support to the educational institution or office and regardless of the level of such support. In addition, ethically, an employer cannot expect preferential treatment when it comes to setting up recruiting visits and placement at career fairs. Another ethical issue to consider - since the company is a high-tech, would this be a turn-off to non-technical students?
Legally, you have to consider the use of the corporate logo with the university logo - what is permissible regarding the use of these logos since the university logo on most campuses is copyrighted? If the university allows the corporate logo to appear on the letterhead, etc., otherwise be used by the career services office (CSO), then it opens up the Pandora's box of "endorsement".
In reference to the minority internship for African-Americans only, it is recommended that this program be set up through the appropriate academic department or minority program office on campus. For example if Mr. Grates is interested in an engineering student for the internship, the Minority Engineering Program office would be the place to work through for this request
4. What are your options? What are the pros and cons of those options?
It would be very tempting to take the option of graciously accepting all that Mr. Grates is offering in order to help move your career center forward. This option would also give you peace of mind knowing that you would not have to worry about your technology needs for the next 10 years. However, by doing this you would be creating a playing field that is not level among your employers and putting your office in the arena of being similar to that of an employment agency. Options:
a) Bring to your Vice President's attention the NACE Principles of Professional Conduct under which career centers and employers operate. In doing this, emphasize to him that there are alternatives to some of the conditions outlined by Mr. Grates.
b) Acknowledgement of the computers and technology contributions through signage in the career center as well as on your web page, special signage at sponsor's booths at career fair, company logo on appropriate recruiting publications as determined by the career center, the company logo on the web site as long as both parties give proper consent,
c) Naming the career center to be the NBN Career Center? Naming the career center for a company has certainly become more of a trend and could be considered provided that the benefits to the employer remain within appropriate ethical guidelines.
This is an enviable situation to be in, but one that could be very touchy and should be handled with extreme diplomacy and sensitivity. It is the career Center Director's job to negotiate this situation so that the career center upholds the ethical standards by which it operates as well as balancing the sensitive issues within the university in the arena of development and fundraising.