If Harvard MBAs aren't out for the money, who is?

Harvard MBAs are signing a pledge they call the M.B.A. Oath, promising not only to "act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner" but also to "safeguard the interests of . . . the society in which we operate" and "guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves." Wharton MBAs are organizing their own ethics clubs and conferences, and making ethics classes some of the most popular at the school (trust me, it wasn't that way in 1999 and 2000, when I attended the school -- did I tell you the story of the kid who made $30,000 one day trading Yahoo! stock during class?).

Columbia MBAs have a new honor code in which students promise, "I will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." A new breed of business school grads promising to be honest, care for society over their own interests, and not put up with book-cooking: What is this, utopia?

Lest you get too worried about paradigms shifting and causing ethical earthquakes, only 20 percent of this year's HBS graduating class has taken the MBA Oath, according to The New York Times. That still leaves at least 600 students to become the next barbarians at the gate. Or whatever. And, as Peter Cohan reminds us, both Rick Wagoner and Fritz Henderson, who helped drive GM to bankruptcy, are Harvard grads -- after all, there are still lots of un-pledged MBAs running wild in corporate America.

But I can't help wondering: if Harvard, Wharton and Columbia business school graduates are shifting into responsible human beings who care more for society than themselves and who pledge not to be out for the money -- who will take their place?

The plentiful cashier's check scammers who advertise jobs to which my husband responded on craigslist say our world isn't hurtling headlong into honesty quite yet. But it's a clear signal that greed isn't so good anymore.

So what is the other 80 percent of the HBS class of 2009 waiting for? Come on! Take the pledge. Everybody's doing it.

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