Scenes From Harvard’s Super Rich MBAs

HBS classmate and friend Hayk Sarkissian

HBS classmate and friend Hayk Sarkissian

One commenter on the story noted that Section X is largely composed of about 100 MBA students from South America, the Middle East and Asia, out of a total enrollment of more than 1,800, “most of whom were making up for the fact that they did not have a ‘college experience.’”

The Times said that even though Section X is hard to pin down — some students said they did not believe it existed at all — it is a source of significant resentment on campus. Every HBS class is organized into 10 sections labeled A through J, and the name Section X suggests a separation from the broader HBS community. “The Section X dynamics really deteriorate the section togetherness,” said Kate Lewis, a 2013 graduate who edited the school newspaper, in an interview with the Times. “By the end of this academic year, Section X had become an adjective on campus for anything exclusive and moneyed, with one student talking about a “mini Section X dynamic” within her real section,” according to the Times.

One Class of 2013 MBA spoke publicly about the section. “Someone made the decision for me that I’m not pretty or wealthy enough to be in Section X,” said Brooke Boyarsky, at the time a first-year MBA Class of 2013 MBA at Harvard. She told her classmates this at a discussion about sexual harassment. “Until then, no one else had publicly said ‘Section X.” They organize “the real parties, the parties where it’s a really limited list, the extravagant vacations — I mean really extravagant,” she told the Times.

According to the Times, the room quickly came alive. “The students said they felt overwhelmed by the wealth that coursed through the school, the way it seemed to shape every aspect of social life–who joined activities that cost hundreds of dollars, who was invited to the parties hosted by the student living in a penthouse apartment at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Boston. Some students would never have to seek work at all–they were at Harvard to learn to invest their families’ fortunes–and others were borrowing thousands of dollars a year just to keep up socially.”

Pfeffer notes that at Stanford, the partying atmosphere began with an event called FOAM (Friends of Arjay Miller, a former Ford Motor senior executive and dean of the school). “As sort of a joke, a group that originally called itself the 11 Percenters and then became known as FOAM began with a Tuesday-night bar scene—since there are no classes on Wednesday,” he writes in BusinessWeek. “Some students thought it would be cool to go to Las Vegas on a Wednesday during the winter quarter—hence, Vegas FOAM—with a Tuesday-night departure, and some people dressed in costumes. Then people began going to the Sundance Film Festival—a majority of the student body now make that trek. And, of course, there are the ski houses and ski weekends, the rental houses in tony Atherton and Woodside that some second-years live in, the various charity fundraising balls, and the numerous other events and trips that I can’t even keep track of.”