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Ethics Case Competition – Homeless PDX

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The Oregon State College of Business third-year case competition promotes dialogue on difficult topics. The signature Blueprint event of junior year puts students into dialogical competition as they practice critical thinking, argumentation and presentation skills on a contemporary, polarizing topic. The tight links between business, government and society are explored as students engage in critical debate.

May 22, 2024

The College of Business is committed to broadening the impact of civil discourse in a time of polarization. We aim to tackle hard topics, while fostering a sense of safety and security for our students. Expanding viewpoint diversity in a space where students often feel uncomfortable speaking out is a goal that originated in our dean’s vision for the college as a thought leader in the university.  

One class in particular is defined by the goal of expanding civil discourse. BA/DSGN 313: The Orange and Black Case Competition offers students the chance to practice discourse skills in real time. Third-year College of Business students explore the nuances of a politically charged, economically impactful policy issue from the perspective of a business entity. By engaging in discourse about difficult topics at the intersection of business, government and society, students develop a deeper understanding of the impacts of business on the world, while practicing critical thinking, research and public discourse skills. This year, the competition focuses on the issue of homelessness in Portland. 

Streets to Stability is an initiative designed to help all houseless or unsheltered people attain stable and secure shelter with access to health services. The initiative focuses on the implementation of Temporary Alternative Shelter Sites (TASS), which are alternative shelters that serve as an improved point of entry for Portlanders on the continuum from living-on-the-streets to finding stability in permanent housing. TASS includes case management with wraparound behavioral and mental health services. Over the last several months, the City of Portland announced its TASS site selections; unsurprisingly, public reactions to the announcements have been mixed. Local businesses as well as members of the community whose properties neighbor the locations, have weighed in. 

This year, the Orange and Black Case Competition charged student teams with taking on the role of a local business near one of the proposed locations. Each student team was tasked with engaging in research and knowledge acquisition, developing their ideas and opinions, and presenting their arguments at a community forum, designed to replicate a Portland city council meeting, where dialogue and group problem-solving is promoted.  

Students were placed into teams and assigned a business profile. Each team participated in community forums as representatives of their assigned business to pitch their stance on the proposed TASS in their location. Teams were challenged to think through their opinion, engage in research, and present their arguments for or against the proposed site. 

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