Latest Cheating Scandal in Navy: Michael Friedlander Asks When Will the Cheating Stop?

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Our leaders are refusing to address the crisis of pervasive cheating and the crisis of those who look the other way as those around them cheat.

Do leaders really believe that they can escape responsibility by arguing that they didn't know what was happening under their watch?

When will our leaders finally be held accountable for creating an environment that encourages cheating?" he asks. "And when will the national media express the outrage we all feel as these leaders look the other way as those around them cheat?

Michael Friedlander, author of “Detecting the Scam: Nelson Mandela’s Gift,” asks when the cheating will finally stop? "When will our leaders finally be held accountable for creating an environment that encourages cheating?" he asks. "And when will the national media express the outrage we all feel as these leaders look the other way as those around them cheat?"

Friedlander is an international business attorney with more than 30 years' experience doing business around the world. He has also been the CEO of an international music company and the CEO of an international architectural design company. His book deals with recent high profile scams and how the leadership qualities of Nelson Mandela could have protected the victims of the scams.

Friedlander offers some recent examples of how none of the leaders involved in our recent financial scandals came close to emulating Nelson Mandela’s lasting leadership legacy, namely, his insistence that a leader always put the interests of those he represents ahead of his personal interests. In every one of these examples, leaders put their personal interests ahead of the interests of those they represented.

Friedlander offers the example of the recently disclosed scandal aboard the USS Memphis. In an article appearing in the Huffington Post on August 15, 2011, Michael Melia writes that, when the Navy revealed the existence of a cheating ring aboard USS Memphis in which sailors received answers to questions before the exams, this wasn't an isolated incident. He writes that, through a Freedom of Information request, it was revealed that a cheating environment existed on the USS Memphis that tolerated and encouraged cheating. He discloses that Navy commanders are under pressure to hit high-performance standards.

Friedlander suggests that, in the case of sailors who might not pass their exams, these commanders face a dilemma: "Do they sacrifice integrity to advance their personal interests in helping their sailors cheat to pass the exams, or do they put their professional careers in potential jeopardy by demanding that there be no cheating on the exams?"

Well, with respect to USS Memphis, they apparently made their choice and the Navy fired the commander and 10% of the crew.
In the case of the deans of the business schools, it is clearly important for the deans to do anything to keep the flow of funds from alumni and corporate donors coming in ⎯ and do nothing to rock that particular boat. In the wake of Enron, however, these same deans were given the responsibility to better equip our future business leaders to address Enron-type ethical issues they might confront and, more important, to address the outbreak of white collar crime. The deans understood the crisis our business community faces, namely, the crisis of pervasive cheating and the crisis of those who looked the other way as those around them cheated. In many respects, our financial futures lay in the hands of new generations of business leaders. This was an awesome responsibility the deans undertook.

"But, what if the deans were faced with a dilemma?" Friedlander asks. "What if there was pervasive cheating amongst their students, and what if the exposure of this cheating would run the risk of the schools losing those important funding opportunities? What were the deans to do? Would they respect the responsibility they had been given to address post-Enron ethical issues by taking all steps necessary to ensure that no cheating be tolerated in their schools, thereby highlighting a problem that might jeopardize funding? Or would they minimize the importance of the pervasive cheating and not draw attention to it and jeopardize future funding? How would they choose if confronted by this dilemma?"

Friedlander points out that they were indeed confronted with this dilemma. The jury, Friedlander claims, has returned with a verdict. Friedlander argues that, according to reputable surveys, it is now an accepted fact that more business students cheat than other students. According to the same surveys, the deans and their faculties know about this. Business students know this, but looked away as their colleagues cheated. How have the deans, faculties, other students reacted and responded? According to the same survey cited above, they chose not to rock the boat and to minimize even the fact of the pervasive cheating.

The result is new generations of business leaders who learn in a cheating environment. "And where is the outrage?" Friedlander asks. "If the deans were employed in the business world," he argues, "they would all be fired." But they are not employed in the business world.

"Finally," Friedlander points out, "the Atlanta schoolteachers faced the same crisis as the commander of USS Memphis later faced." As in the case of Navy commanders, it was in the schools’ and teachers' personal interests to hit high-performance standards on their students' tests. The teachers and schools embarked on a massive widespread organized cheating campaign. In the statement issued by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, the state found "cheating in 44 of the 56 schools" examined. 38 principals were "found to be responsible for, or directly involved in the cheating." He continued: "We determined that 178 teachers and principals in the Atlanta Public Schools System cheated."

To Friedlander, the message is clear:

"When will someone step up to the plate and express the outrage we all feel? And what corrective measures will we put in place?"

On this, Friedlander argues, the jury is still out...

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Michael Friedlander
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