Bellyaching at the B-School

Miss seldom concerns herself with the antics of graduate school students and faculty, mainly because graduate schools and the denizens therein tend to be, well, boring. But news of gender turmoil at the Harvard Business School has Miss sitting up and taking notice.

On September 8, the New York Times ran a blistering exposé of sexism run amok on the banks of the Charles. We’re talking good, old-fashioned boy-against-girl sexism, the students-lob-a-chalk-into-teacher’s-décolletage kind, as opposed to the newfangled sexism of bathrooms appropriated by cross-dressers and pregnant daddies demanding Mothercare manufacture wife-beater paternity smocks.

No, the battles of the sexes at the B-School are pretty mundane, with, of course, an elitist twist.

Ask the average Joe or Joan why a student might choose to attend Harvard Business School, and you’ll get answers within a pretty narrow spectrum, ranging from, “make more money” to “get rich.” You won’t find too many aspiring Albert Schweitzers or Mother Teresas lining up outside the doors of Dillion House.

Apparently, you won’t find too many Gordon Gekkos or Leona Helmsleys, either. What you will find is a group of greedy–yes, one does attend HBS for the proximity it brings one to cold hard cash–status-conscious cry-babies. To that gender-neutral description add “husband-hunting” for the female students.

I hope you are as surprised as I was to learn that woman apply to and attend Harvard Business School in hopes of obtaining their MRS. Even the faculty and administration know this to be true:

administrators and professors agreed that one particular factor was torpedoing female class participation grades: women, especially single women, often felt they had to choose between academic and social success.

One student declares her major even more explicitly:

she wanted to meet someone soon, maybe at Harvard, which she and other students feared could be their “last chance among cream-of-the-crop-type people,” as she put it.

HBS students take a field trip with Dean Frei.

HBS students take a field trip with Dean Frei.

I hope Susan Patton feels vindicated.

Male students, not surprisingly, make their insecurities plain in all the usual ways.  Rather than whipping them out and passing around a ruler, the men rely on “luxury cars, ” “lavish weekend getaways,” “decadent parties,” and “secret societ[ies]” to show the world their awesome worth.  These men “siz[e] up [women] on how they looked,” according to a dean.

In spite of–or perhaps because of–their lofty academic goals, students at the business school are naive. That they are self-centered, of course goes without saying. Keep in mind that the average age of HBS students is 27. Chronologically they are adults. But not old enough to know how to handle themselves in adult situations: in loco parentis administrators must haul these wet-behind-the-ears tots into

a mandatory discussion about sexual harassment. As students soon learned, one woman had confided to faculty members that a male student she would not identify had groped her in an off-campus bar months before.

Do you think by the time these tycoons-on-training-wheels turn 30 their parents will let them stay out past midnight? Maybe just once, for special, on Halloween. Because HBS students like to trick-or-treat:

As Halloween approached, some students planned to wear costumes to class, but at the last minute [Dean] Frei, who wanted to set a serious tone and head off the potential for sexy pirate costumes, sent a note out prohibiting it, provoking more eye rolls. “How much responsibility does H.B.S. have?” Laura Merritt, a co-president of the class, asked later. “Do we have school uniforms? Where do you stop?”

We doan wanna be treated like sex objects! We doan wanna be judged by our looks! We wanna wear sexy pirate costumes to class!

Jolly Regina is studying maritime trade.

Jolly Regina studies maritime trade.

The most stinging indictment of HBS’s sexist mores, however, comes out of the mouth of one of its babes who gallantly refuses to discuss possible issues of sexual harassment or unfair treatment because,

“I’d like to be candid, but I paid half a million dollars to come here,” [a male student] said in an interview, counting his lost wages. “I could blow up my [social] network with one wrong comment.”

Can HBS really be home to such losers? I’d like to think not, since I know a bunch of Harvard MBAs and I like most of them a great deal. Maybe these deeply disturbing behaviors have been twisted by the Times.

Yes. This must be the explanation. After all, the article discusses how students evaluate faculty: “at the end of every semester, students g[i]ve professors teaching scores from a low of 1 to a high of 7.” Yet a scant six paragraphs later, a dean boasts of successfully coaching a junior faculty member, and the Times summarizes:

By the end of the semester, the teaching scores of the women [faculty] had improved so much that [the dean] thought they were a mistake. One professor had shot to a 6 from a 4.

In other words, a meteoric rise from middling to OK. I’m impressed! On second thought, in the upside down world that higher education has become, I guess this makes perfect sense.

6 thoughts on “Bellyaching at the B-School

  1. No, because I’ve always thought that Harvard and sexism went together like coughing and phlegm. What caused my throat to tighten om my Chicken Provencal was the whole Massachusetts spirit thing. That’s like saying a three week old corpse is the spirit of your local maternity ward.

  2. Pingback: The Philosophers’ Stones | Call Me "Miss"!

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