The movement has encountered its share of skeptics who say the oath won't make a difference. "Those who are morally strong don't need the oath, those that are not won't honor it," one commenter wrote on BNET, a business website.
"In that statement, this oath has ceased to be an oath advocating capitalism," Mr. Hammons says. "It means that my individual pursuit of happiness is not ethical." The notion of the "greater good" has too often been abused, he says, citing the Cultural Revolution in China as one example.
Such dialogue highlights "a deep fundamental difference about what the purpose of the corporation is and whether it has any responsibility to society other than maximizing profits," says Rakesh Khurana, a Harvard business professor whose writings on professionalizing management have informed the student oath. It will take this kind of pressure, he says, for business schools to shift curriculum and practices to emphasize different values.