As scandals go, this was a big one. In late November, Stanford Graduate School of Business publicly admitted that it misled thousands of applicants and donors about the way it distributes fellowship aid and financial assistance to its MBA students. The disclosure came to light as a result of a computer breach that exposed 14 terabytes of highly confidential student data detailing the most recent 5,120 financial aid applications from 2,288 students, spanning a seven-year period from 2008-2009 to 2015-2016.
The information was unearthed by a current MBA student, Adam Allcock, in February of this year from a shared network directory accessible to any student, faculty member or staffer of the business school. In the same month, on Feb. 23, the student reported the breach to Jack Edwards, director of financial aid, and the records were removed within an hour of his meeting with Edwards.
Allcock, however, says he spent 1,500 hours analyzing the data and compiling an 88-page report on it. His conclusion: “The GSB secretly ranks students as to how valuable (or replaceable) they were seen, and awarded financial aid on that basis. Not only has the GSB also been systematically discriminating by gender, international status and more while lying to their faces for the last 10 to ~25 years.”
When deadly violence unfolded in the sleepy, college town of Charlottesville in August, some 20 first-year MBAs—all incoming students of color at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business—gathered together. It was supposed to be little more than a get together at the student housing complex.
But after the city was beseiged by hundreds of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, the meet-and-greet would become a place for an outpouring of emotion, the most poignant moment of that hellish day for Martin Davidson, a long-time leadership professor at Darden and the school’s chief diversity officer.
When he walked into the room, the professor could literally feel the anguish and pain. “These students were terrorized, fearful and deeply distraught,” recalled Davidson. “This was their very first weekend in Charlottesville. Now they were questioning coming here in the first place. They were full out scared to death.”
Even though the protesters came in from out of town and even though it was a random event in a place known for its progressive values, the incident is having a predictable impact on early applications to both the wider university and its business school.
For international students, who have little understanding of American politics and protests, it has been enough to scare off many who might have had the highly ranked Darden on their target lists. For underrepresented minorities and Jews in the U.S., the torchlight procession and racist chants on the university’s grounds—meant to evoke marches of Hitler Youth—may well be hard to erase. One thing is certain: Darden Dean Scott Beardsley is doing everything possible to put the protest behind the school.