Institutions in Crisis

 
These cases provide students of ethics, organizational studies, crisis management, and institutional analysis with opportunities to explore the dynamics of organizations experiencing change, ethical crisis, and evolution. They draw upon actual scenarios across four institutional domains: religion, the military, business, and higher education. All cases have accompanying teaching notes. A summary of the conceptual framework (pdf) that resulted from this work and a case study assignment (pdf) for students can be used for further study of ethical crisis in organizations and institutions.


Don’t Look Now, You’re Being Googled: Google Search Data Compilation and User Privacy (2011)
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This case study examines conflicting missions within an organization and illustrates ethical challenges arising from emerging internet technologies.

Keywords: Google, internet, algorithm, privacy, mission


Starbucks vs. Ethiopia: Corporate Strategy and Ethical Sourcing in the Coffee Industry (2011)
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Drawing on a trade mark disagreement between Ethiopia and Starbucks, this case highlights the complexity surrounding global certification programs, the difficulty inherent in balancing corporate and shareholder interests with responsible corporate citizenship, and the challenge to preserving economic value for the producers of consumer goods grown in developing nations.

Keywords: trademark, licensing, economic development, corporate citizenship, certification, mission


Greed, Negligence, or System Failure? Credit Rating Agencies and the Financial Crisis (2011)
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Credit rating agencies are responsible for rating the credit-worthiness of a wide variety of investment opportunities. While the agencies’ failure (out of greed or negligence) to properly assess the risk of these instruments leading up to the 2008 financial crisis is well-known, this case explores more encompassing systemic factors, including shifts in corporate culture, that led both to agency failures and the global financial crisis.

Keywords: credit rating agencies, Moody’s, Standard and Poors, financial crisis, derivatives, subprime mortgaged, conflicts of interest, corporate culture, regulatory oversight, market competition


Fishy Business? AquaBounty Technologies, the FDA, and Genetically Modified Foods (2011)
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This case considers the FDA approval process for genetically modified animals in light of AquaBounty Technologies push to bring AquAdvantage salmon to the market. Issues of effective governance, transparency, and antiquated policies highlight challenges for the FDA in regulating biotechnology enhancements.

Keywords: biotechnology, genetic engineering, FDA, regulatory oversight, accountability, governance, transparency, conflict of interest, mission


The Investment Bank Job: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Goldman Sachs(2011)
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This case study examines the evolution of the modern financial industry and the organizational and structural shifts within Wall Street banks that led to the crisis at Goldman Sachs.

Keywords: Goldman Sachs, SEC, financial regulation, accountability, mission, organizational structure, Wall Street


Heroes or Mercenaries?: Blackwater, Private Security Companies, and the U.S. Military (2010)
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This case uses two widely publicized events in the Iraq war involving the private security company Blackwater USA to consider how private military contractors have influenced and have been influenced by changes in the organization and perceived mission of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Keywords: Blackwater, Xe Services, PMSC, Fallujah, Baghdad, Iraq, U.S. Military, contract


Communion in Crisis: Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church, and the Anglican Communion (2010)
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This case examines the controversy surrounding the first consecration of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA). It considers the sense of crisis the consecration ignited both within the American churches comprising the ECUSA and between the ECUSA and the broader Anglican Communion. Among other factors, different understandings of organizational mission and a lack of clarity in authority structures contributed to a sense of crisis and an incomplete resolution of the complicated issue of homosexuality.

Keywords: Gene Robinson, Episcopal Church, Anglican Communion, religion, organizational structure, authority, homosexuality


Vioxx and the Merck Team Effort (2009)
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The pharmaceutical company Merck continued to market its popular prescription pain reliver, Vioxx, despite mounting concerns over its safety. This case study uses the Merck Vioxx episode to examine the coexistence of competing understandings of mission across organizational subdivisions and the difficulty of regulating drug safety in a market context.

Keywords: Vioxx, Merck, pharmaceutical, drug trial, consumer safety, FDA, regulation, mission, marketing


A Synergistic Union, or Selling Out?: University-Industry Relations, Biotechnology, and the UC-Berkeley/Novartis Partnership (2009)
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This case uses the controversial partnership linking the University of California-Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources and agribusiness giant Novartis to examine the ongoing tensions between higher education’s public mission and its competition for resources in a competitive education and research market.

Keywords: higher education, University of California, Novartis, industry-academic partnerships, public mission, biotechnology, agriculture, proprietary science, public science


Crisis of Purpose in the Ivy League: The Harvard Presidency of Lawrence Summers and the Context of American Higher Education (2009)
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Uses the resignation of Harvard President Lawrence Summers to discuss the operation of the modern university within an increasingly competitive, complex, and corporatized context and to illustrate institutional contestation over questions of governance, accountability, and mission.

Keywords: Harvard, Summers, higher education, governance, accountability, mission


Commercial Surrogacy and Fertility Tourism in India: The Case of Baby Manji (2009)
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Discusses the institutional complexities around the surrogacy and birth of a child with a Japanese biological father and three mothers–the intended Japanese mother who had contracted for the surrogacy, the Indian egg donor, and the Indian gestational surrogate.

Keywords: surrogate, biological parent, egg donation, adoption, diplomatic relations, parentage, nationality, family, citizenship, identity


CyberU: The Accreditation of Jones International University (2009)
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Examines how the accreditation of the first completely online university served as a catalyst for bringing into the public sphere conversations about the definition and purpose of higher education, the way new technologies affect how communication and learning happen, and the role of corporations in higher education.

Keywords: distance education, online courses, accreditation, higher education, online degrees, liberal education, adult education


Religious Liberty, Vatican II, and John Courtney Murray (2009)
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Examines how the work of John Courtney Murray and the Second Vatican Council led the vast and complex institution of the Roman Catholic Church to radically revise its understanding of religious freedom within a nine-year period.

Keywords: American Catholicism, church and state, religious freedom, doctrinal change, laity


Tailhook ’91 and the U.S. Navy (2009)
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Discusses the organizational culture and internal operations of the U.S. Navy as an institution in light of the sexual harassment scandal that followed the 1991 annual meeting of the Tailhook Association.

Keywords: women, U.S. Navy, naval aviation, military investigation, military officers, sexual harassment