I had dinner tonight with a friend graduating from Harvard Business School tomorrow. Her family needs an extra ticket to the graduation ceremony. A fellow classmate is offering to sell her his spare ticket for $100. The catch? The administration has specifically told students they’re not allowed to sell tickets for cash, and if they do, their diploma can be withheld.
So under these clear unambiguous guidelines, our Fellow is already making a profit by acting against community standards. “But everyone does it” is, I’m sure, the rationalization. But it’s only a rationalization. I once hoped that places like Harvard would strive to instill in graduates a sense of duty to be an example of the highest standards of ethics and moral behavior. Nope. They aspire to get what they want, happily enjoying the privileges that come with the degree, yet stooping to the “everyone does it” excuse when asked to exercise a modicum of integrity.
“Everyone does it.” Imagine a world where “everyone” acted with honor, generosity, and trustworthiness. That’s a world where “everyone does it” might be a reason to follow the crowd.