Dr. Pramita Balakrishnan was a strong advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and was one of Canada’s most renowned business professors in management communications. Over the past three years, more than 500 students had completed a virtual, cross-cultural, experiential exercise as part of Balakrishnan’s management communications course. However, this year, a number of students expressed discomfort in working with a partnering school, Mission University in Louisiana, due to its anti-LGBT2Q+ stance. For example, the Mission University administration required students to sign a values statement that prohibited “sexually impure relationships” such as homosexual activities. Other students in the course wanted to proceed with the exercise.
Should she cancel the exercise? What message would her decision send to students, faculty, and administrators at both schools? What would be the potential consequences of her decision and what was the best approach moving forward? Balakrishnan had less than 24 hours to figure out what to do before the exercise was set to launch.
The case uses fictional people and institutions to illustrate a pressing and important set of issues in education, with high relevance to business and other organizations.