Business school follies videos often toe the line between hilarity and offensiveness. At Stanford’s Graduate School of Business this past year, the promotional trailer to the upcoming follies crossed that line to the offensive in the eyes of many, including a Stanford Law professor. The video, which was set to Petros & Sol’s Unfinished Business, was removed from the GSB Follies website, but not before sparking a massive amount of controversy. One of the first prominent pieces of criticism came from within Stanford walls. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber tweeted the video, noting “The problem is that this is what a hostile environment looks like. So it’s not funny — it’s degrading to women and diminishes all women in biz.”
Ironically, her tweet was flagged by Twitter because of a screenshot taken from the video showed barely clothed bodies. Up next was the critique written by the editor of TriplePundit, a news site covering sustainable business practices. The headline for the commentary: “Stanford Business Students Release Ill-Conceived, Misogynistic Music Video.”
“This video promotes gender stereotypes and sexual harassment — issues one would hope Stanford students and faculty would be actively working against in the classroom,” wrote Editor Jen Boynton, who has an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School. She called the video “gross, unfunny and unbefitting” graduates who will some day be in leadership positions.
Complaining about professors definitely isn’t uncommon. Doing it in a published essay in the school newspaper is less common. That’s exactly what happened at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School last fall. Writing anonymously in The Wharton Journal, a current Wharton student called the quality of teaching in the school’s MBA program “cartoonishly bad.” In one instance, the student wrote, a professor resorted to “reading someone else’s slides aloud” and became “visibly annoyed” by questions in class.
“Students dropped out in droves, complained to academic advisors, but ultimately bore the brunt of his sloppy syllabus and demotivating indifference,” the MBA student lamented in a highly critical essay entitled “Wharton Doesn’t Care About Teaching. Why Should We Care About Academics?”
And the student isn’t alone in the disappointment. According to surveys from The Economist, Wharton not only lags in MBA teaching quality among its peer schools, it also falls behind schools not even considered top 25 schools. Last year for example, The Economist, which surveys alumni from top schools annually, reported that the student rating of Wharton faculty ranked the school 70th among 100 schools. Moreover, in 24 years of Businessweek MBA teaching grades, Wharton has never finished in the top 20th percentile.
Last fall, the University of Wisconsin School of Business joined a growing list of business schools — at least for a bit. In an email sent to students on October 18, 2017, Associate Dean for MBA Programs at Wisconsin Donald Hausch said the school was seriously considering closing the full-time residential MBA program, which would have placed the school on a list including the University of Iowa, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest — all of which have done the same. The announcement came at a surprising time. Wisconsin Dean Anne P. Massey was only three-months into her deanship. The school said it would hold a town hall meeting and have faculty review the proposal before making a decision in November.
But it didn’t take till November. Less than a week after the email was sent — and about three days after the news broke, backlash at Wisconsin had commenced. An online letter and petition to Massey and Wisconsin faculty was created and within hours, hundreds of current and former business and university students had signed it. “We hope you consider the mission of public education as you make this decision,” the petition read. “As one of the oldest and most prestigious public universities in the nation, the University of Wisconsin provides a stellar education for students of all backgrounds. We believe that a public MBA is an essential ladder for future business leaders who may not have the financial means to attend the Harvards of the world.”
Two days later — and a week after the initial email — Massey and Wisconsin backpedaled and announced they were no longer considering removing the full-time residential MBA program. Instead, Massey wrote in a statement to the school community, “We will move forward with discussions on how to grow the undergraduate program and expand the graduate portfolio while simultaneously strengthening the full-time MBA experience.”