Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Unethical Behavior at the University of Minnesota?

By Carlson School Students?

Is this Surprising?

For background on the ethically challenged attitude of one of the Carlson School faculty please see: Greed is Good.

"It's one thing if you're bringing in a criminal to speak. But if someone's under investigation, that's fair game," he [Parente] said.

Stephen Parente, director of the Medical Industry Leadership Institute in the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota

A Missouri start-up is accusing students in a University of Minnesota class of copying its idea for a business. The university has said some of the students' behavior was not acceptable and that their lesson will help future students.

Last year, a Missouri start-up received calls from University of Minnesota business students who asked for help on a class project.
The business owners were happy to help. They provided sales and marketing data. They spent time on the phone telling the students about their product, a device that lets people open bathroom doors with their foot.
Then, a couple of months later, they discovered that the students had created a rival company with a similar product.
"To do it the way they did it, it's just not right to be taught that in school," said Ron Ely, a co-founder of the company, StepNpull. "That's almost plagiarism, and they got the whole school backing up the knowledge and marketing."

Enter Arndt, Toepener's CEO. He was a student in the U's Entrepreneurship in Action class, which began in September. The class challenges undergraduate students to create companies.
Arndt, a self-proclaimed germaphobe, says he came up with the idea for Toepener independently last fall, but didn't provide a specific date. StepNpull's records show he purchased one of its products on Sept. 27.
Around that time, the students contacted the company.
"You have a great product on your hands," Arndt e-mailed StepNpull in October. Arndt then asked if he could do work for StepNpull in the future.
On Dec. 7, student Mike Wesely e-mailed StepNpull. Wesely said his parents remodeled their bar's restrooms and he had "stumbled" across their product. He wondered whether StepNpull was compliant with federal disabilities regulations. StepNpull sent over more information. Wesely didn't disclose he was part of Arndt's team.
On Dec. 28, the students incorporated their business, Forge LLC.

 Kirk O. Hanson, executive director at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said he thinks the U should give any money it gets from Toepener back to StepNpull because it's "tainted."
"If I were in the university's shoes, I would hesitate before [promoting] this firm as an example."
John Stavig, who teaches the Entrepreneurship in Action class, is the guarantor of Toepener's $15,000 loan. He is also the professional director of the U's Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, which is the lead sponsor for the Minnesota Cup's student division. Stavig facilitates the judging for that division.
Since the division began in 2006, all five student winners have been connected to the Carlson School.

"We're trying to help students move forward with their businesses. Do they always make the right decisions? No," Stavig said. "Should we crucify a couple of entrepreneurs trying to build a business? That seems foolish to me."
Disgusting.  Maybe the Carlson School should go private...

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