News In Brief

Outside Job: Columbia Business School professors get bad grade on full disclosure

Tracey Samuelson Jul 29, 2011

School may be out for the summer, but Columbia professors have still found a way to be tardy.

As reported on Marketplace Morning Report, Columbia Business School set a July 1 deadline for full-time faculty members to publicly disclose any outside work they’ve done in the past five years. The new policy is designed to prevent conflicts of interest that could undermine the professors’ academic work and the school’s credibility.

So how are the profs doing?

A collective B- at best. By three weeks after the deadline, only 80 percent had complied with the new policy. “The school is actively following up and working to have this completed as soon as possible,” a Columbia Business School spokeswoman says.

The new policy was devised after Inside Job, the 2010 documentary about the financial crisis, exposed potential conflicts of interest at leading business schools, including Columbia’s. Professors must disclose in their CVs on the school’s site any work they have done outside the school that could be perceived as having a conflict of interest with their academic work – from consulting for banks to speaking engagements.

Actually, a B- is generous. Some professors observe the letter of the policy but not its spirit: Readers are left to search for the disclosure.

And remember Frederic Mishkin? Inside Job revealed that he hadn’t disclosed that the Icelandic Chamber of Commerce paid for his research report praising the financial stability of Iceland. Mishkin posted an “outside compensated activities” link on his webpage by the deadline, but he didn’t name his consulting clients. He added that information after Marketplace queried him about it last week.

What would these professors do if their students turned in an assignment three weeks late, or incomplete?

My own disclosure: I’m a part-time graduate student at Columbia Journalism School, but not in any way affiliated with Columbia Business School.

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