Professors Call for New Accounting Curriculum Mandate

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Professors at Kansas State University College of Business Administration are spearheading a campaign to emphasize the importance of ethics in business education. The call to support Uniform Accountancy Rules 5-1 and 5-2 as effort to prevent future corporate ethics scandals, has been endorsed by more than 200 ethicists, business professionals, two conference boards and, of course, fellow professors.

“The accounting profession, especially the large firms, see a need and have expressed support for ethics courses as part of the accounting curriculum,” says Dann Fisher, associate professor of accounting and the Deloitte Touche Faculty Fellow at Kansas State University. “The resistance expressed by the academic community is what I find disconcerting. In general, accounting faculty appear to be unwilling to change and, at the same time, bitter that an external body would attempt to force them to change curriculum. Regardless of the reasons, the status quo is unacceptable.”

So, he has teamed with Diane Swanson, an associate professor of management and von Waaden business administration professor at Kansas State University, to issue a call to support the rules proposed by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). Swanson and Fisher, who is ranked 13th in publishing productivity of accounting faculty in an upcoming article in Research on Professional Responsibilities and Ethics in Accounting, are on the forefront of research on the new state requirements for continuing education in accounting.

The NASBA Exposure Draft of Uniform Accountancy Rules 5-1 and 5-2 issued in February of this year are the product of the 2003-2004 NASBA Education Committee's 150 Hour Task Force. The proposed rules call for the “inclusion and emphasis of ethical conduct and professional responsibility throughout the curriculum.”

According to Fisher, the proposal would require three hours of accounting ethics coursework and three hours of business ethics coursework as a condition of sitting for the certified public accountants exam. It does not have an impact on renewal of licenses occurring after the exam is passed and the experience requirement, determined by each state board of accountancy as a condition for licensure, is met.

“We've suggested specific changes in accounting curriculum to help avoid the lapses in moral judgment that we've witnessed with Arthur Andersen and company,” says Diane Swanson. “Amazingly, there is resistance to the idea of having a required course in the accounting curriculum. It's so good to have a partner in Dann Fisher who sees the need for ethics coursework in accounting so clearly.”

The Fisher-Swanson call for support was published in the American Accounting Association Teaching and Curriculum Section Newsletter in May. The pair also plans to elaborate on this call when they present a paper at the American Accounting Association Ethics Symposium in San Francisco in August.

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