April 14, 2009 in City

Spitzer turning to ethics work on corporate culture

Outgoing Gonzaga president calling for regulation in financial industry
By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photo

Father Robert Spitzer, president of Gonzaga University, stands in the administration building Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2009. He has seen his school’s stature rise with the success of the basketball team. He will leave his position in July. JESSE TINSLEY THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW
(Full-size photo)

Gonzaga University President The Rev. Robert Spitzer, who is stepping down in July, is calling for broad regulation of the financial industry to prevent further lapses in ethical behaviors that led to the worldwide financial meltdown over the past year.

Spitzer on Tuesday said he is planning to concentrate on programs to improve corporate cultures and ethics after he leaves the GU presidency after 11 years in the job.

“You need systemic regulatory solutions that will prevent this from happening in the future,” he said of the massive investment losses.

Government agencies that are responsible for regulatory control “have frankly let things get away from them,” so that trillions of dollars in bad debt will continue to be a drag on the global economy for some time, he said.

Corporations need help from the inside, Spitzer said, and that is where he thinks he can help as he moves into the next stage of his career.

Spitzer wants to apply his three decades of academic expertise to encourage a newer corporate culture not based on greed, arrogance and fear, which can be traced to the root of the current financial meltdown.

Spitzer said he will use academic measurements to define the destructive nature of a corporation’s culture, including reliance on ego and aggressiveness.

“Arrogance and fear are much more likely to be the sources of unethical behavior,” he said. “That has to be dealt with.”

He plans to create real-time interactive training over the Web through his Spitzer Center for Ethical Leadership, which was founded in 2003.

“We are not just helping people within the culture, but we are helping the leaders. … If you decrease fear and hubris in your culture, you are going to improve a lot of things. You are going to improve the quality of your product. You are going to improve the quality of your service. You are going to improve the turnover rate in the top 25 percent of your critical skills people. The trust rate will just skyrocket,” he said.

“We are trying to say to them, ‘Good ethics is good business,’ ” Spitzer said.

His ethics work, which has been on a side burner while he served as GU president, will capitalize on his previous efforts in philosophy, psychology, organizational development and management science, he said.

He plans to pair the leadership work with similar interactive programs on faith and reason through the Magis Institute, an association of Roman Catholic business and clergy people founded in 2002.

Stepping down from the presidency also offers Spitzer the time to expand on his writings.

He has three published academic books now and is planning to publish three more as early as this year. They are entitled “New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy,” “Jesus-Emmanuel: Evidence of the Divinity of Christ and the Unconditional Love of God” and “Suffering and the Unconditional Love of God.”

He also plans to publish six popular books based on his academic works, including the “Four Levels of Happiness” and “How to Suffer Well.”

A presidential successor is being sought, but no candidates have yet been identified, said Dale Goodwin, GU’s director of public relations.

Mike Prager can be reached at (509) 459-5454 or by e-mail at mikep@spokesman.com

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