Today we’re following up on the issue of whether a student “owes” something to a school. This question was raised when a current HBS first-year took a recruiter to task when the recruiter solicited her for an internship. The student in question is very passionate about the issue of chemicals in cosmetics and this recruiter happened to be from L’Oreal. We posted about it here and then we ran a quick poll asking for input. We only got a smattering of responses but those that were offered were insightful and interesting and so we’re going to share them with all of you today.
First of all, we asked your opinion on how the student handled the incident in general:
Not one person would’ve done the same? Granted, a sample size of
12 13 is not massive but still. (ETA: We had 12 responses when we first published this post; we got another one in December. That result is now included in these charts.)
We also asked whether it was OK for the student to post the recruiter’s email address on her blog, and most people felt that was not so great:
Yeah, that seemed a little lame to us, too.
Then we asked for any commentary on the incident, and we got some great remarks. Here they are:
I know that these schools work hard to bring recruiters onto campus and provide their students with great internships and career opportunities.
But here’s the thing: these schools are still institutions of higher learning. They’re not corporate PR machines. Elite academic institutions need to protect free thought and expression. I don’t think Ms. Assaf owes HBS anything here–I think HBS owes it to her to remain in her corner. If recruiters balk, HBS needs to fight back and say that it remains committed to bringing bright, open-minded people into its hallowed halls and that the corporate world should be excited about the opportunity to hire graduates who aren’t afraid to speak truth to power.
HBS needs to foster this kind of environment, not stifle it.
We didn’t hear anything about HBS stifling anything. -ES
I think you need to represent the brand of your school well. By all means, disagree, but do so professionally and with courtesy.
A student should care about how their actions reflect on their school.
I’m not sure how I feel about this incident, except it drive me towards more collaborate, friendly programs even further.
Almost everyone goes to business school to advance their career, so self-interest, even if it’s for an altruistic cause, is inherent in every BSer. In this sense, BSers should put their own interests ahead of others because what’s good for the individual is USUALLY good for the school. High incomes from grads mean more prestige and $$$ for the school later, which means more recruiting opportunities for future BSers. But self-interest/selfishness doesn’t always produce the best outcomes for the market as a whole (Great Recession?) especially when there are externalities such as reputation and biases at play. As an individual, you represent the school much in the same way that the school is the collective summation of unique individuals. It’s important to portray that brand with respect and professionalism at all times. If one deviates from that course, as determined by the community or the “reasonable person test,” then the individual in the wrong needs to make an apology. I believe BSers have a responsibility to work as a team to collaboratively promote their school’s brand in a way that’s not win-lose. In most situations, there’s a way to make the pie bigger instead of just dividing up a fixed number of slices. Perhaps considering this recruiter as a teammate instead of an adversary would have avoided Ms Assaf’s public berating of a recruiter and instead built a relationship with her to try and fix an organization from the inside. Isn’t teamwork one of the essential skills BSers need to develop in B-school? This situation has the familiar tint that many older generations use to categorize the negative qualities of Millenials. Giving Ms Assaf the benefit of the doubt, however, the issue area may require harsh language and responses in order to bring awareness to the cause. Perhaps Ms Assaf’s negative response was a strategic decision to gain publicity for this issue area. If that’s the case, then she has harnessed the positive network effects of social media effectively and should be respected for her tactical decision-making ability.
Two points in response to this: 1) Re: “recruiter as teammate”: The recruiter is an HBS alum but it doesn’t seem that relationship was top-of-mind to the student; 2) Ms Assaf apparently has disabled comments on those posts on her blog so she seems uninterested in a dialog on the issue. -ES
No, the student is not under any obligation to act a certain way. That said, a business school is there to provide you with many different career options. If you don’t like a particular company/industry and your personal values conflict with theirs, then you don’t have to reply to their email or go to their panel.
What if some passionate environmentalists decided to protest against an energy company’s presentations? What about if the non-profit/social entrepreneurship folks decided to protest against…all the banks/finance companies? It’s inevitable that there be a conflict of values. But a student doesn’t have to make a big fuss. A company that is not right for them may be right for others. Something like this CAN damage a school’s relationship with an organization, though since this is HBS, it probably won’t matter.
Anyway, the recruiter dashed off a hasty recruiting email and didn’t review the recipient’s resume. Quite frankly, it seems like the recipient’s ego was bruised (how dare you not know who I am and my personal causes!). Quite frankly, I think she should get over herself. There are much better ways to go about creating change, I don’t think this was one of them.
I don’t think you explicitly “owe” the school anything in terms of recruiting. However, as a member of a school’s class, I think you need to be aware of how you are representing the school’s brand and identity, as you are now part of the club (or clan or tribe).
In my opinion, the student came across as unprofessional and self-righteous and damaged both the school’s reputation and the career center’s relationship with L’Oreal (albeit in a minor way).
To be fair, she is also young, clearly passionate about the issue, and willing to make a stand for it. Perhaps this, to some extent, reflects the HBS “type” – she’s vocal about her opinions (would speak up in class), not afraid of public scrutiny, and cares enough about issues to do something about it. Also, she’s kinda cute.
That being said, I think what she did was stupid and wouldn’t want someone like that in my class…but maybe that’s why I didn’t get into HBS.
Now you have to be cute to get into Harvard?? Hunh, never knew that one! -ES
Thank you, everyone, for those remarks – it’s interesting to see the different reactions! Does anyone have any further reaction to these reactions? The original poll is still open or you can just add your thoughts in the comments of this post.
And Happy Thanksgiving, to the Americans in Snarkville!