Article: Business, education and society: Sarosh Kuruvilla

Campus Recruitment

Business, education and society: Sarosh Kuruvilla

Sarosh Kurvilla, Professor, School of Industrial and Labour Relations, Cornell University
Business, education and society: Sarosh Kuruvilla

We choose to emphasise employees as critical stakeholders as well


The traditional determinants of good business schools include good intake (highly intelligent and selectively recruited students with some work experience), great throughput (recruitment of the best faculty involved in cutting-edge research), a constantly changing stream of courses to reflect changing circumstances, and a dense network of former graduates in the corporate world essential for successful placement of current graduates. In addition, there are the advantages of reputation, gained from either being the first mover (e.g. IIM Ahmedabad) or large endowments (e.g. Harvard) or unique innovations such as the case method (e.g. Harvard).

Yet business schools, including the good ones, have been criticized on a number of grounds. Two criticisms are noteworthy – the first is that business schools produce graduates who are not analytical enough. Only 200 out of 500 CEOs of the Fortune 500 companies had business degrees, while about 35 had not even graduated from college. The second criticism centers around the absence of a moral dimension to education. Business schools tend to assume that what is good for the corporation and its shareholders, is good for everybody and that assumption is reflected in their teaching. This has led to what critics call an emphasis on corporate greed, and a willingness to cut both legal and moral corners in order to maximize profits.

The ILR School at Cornell University differs from business schools with regard to the two criticisms made above. Given that our school is rooted in the interdisciplinary social sciences, we have been able to produce analytically bright undergraduates and graduates who are comfortable with interpreting events and texts as well as numbers. There is a core value underlying whatever we teach, and that is, all economic organization is embedded in a social and political context and these concerns are just as important as the profit motive. Decisions made by corporations have a fundamental impact on society, and we prepare our graduates with a more holistic view of organizations that emphasizes not just on shareholder return, but also on stakeholder perspectives, in which society is a critical stakeholder. We choose to emphasize employees as a critical stakeholder as well. Business leaders highlight the need for talent but also have little hesitancy in laying off its core asset in the short-term search for an increase in the quarterly return.

Schools of industrial relations and human resources take a broader and long-term view, and that distinguishes us from other business schools. In this context, the fact that two IIMs are re-introducing industrial relations in their core curriculum after the recent Maruti strikes at Manesar, is an important indicator of the realization of the social embeddedness of corporations that Cornell ILR emphasizes.

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Topics: Campus Recruitment, Strategic HR, C-Suite

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