For the first time in 35 years, INSEAD has cancelled its MBA welcome week after two students complained to authorities that they were “tricked into taking part in humiliating initiation ceremonies,” according to reporting by the Financial Times. Details of the hazing have not been released, but the Comité National Contre le Bizutage — the French National Committee Against Hazing — has launched an investigation just as the school’s academic accreditation is up for renewal.
Launched in 1983, INSEAD’s welcome week has always involved hazing — a common practice at U.S. universities — at the school’s Fontainebleau campus just outside of Paris; the original concept behind the hazing, FT reports, was to “puncture the inflated egos of new arrivals.” One common hazing tactic: a fake sports club in which students are threatened with expulsion if they don’t participate in extreme challenges and activities.
Two former students went on record with the FT in describing their hazing experiences. Reshma Sohoni, who graduated in 2003, said she was put through a 24-hour exercise challenge for a spot in the school’s adventure club only to find out that no such club existed. “There are always one or two people who get upset about being humiliated but I think it builds character,” Sohoni told the FT. “It is about not taking yourself too seriously.”
Another student, who remained anonymous, recalled trying out for a fake club and the club “captain” telling him to run “until you puke your guts up.” The anonymous student also said the experience was akin to character building. He even signed a petition put together by alumni when word got out that INSEAD was mulling over cancelling the event. “Sometimes there is too much political correctness,” he told the FT.
DEAN: ‘WELCOME WEEK CANNOT CONTINUE IF IT MOVES STUDENTS TO FILE A FORMAL COMPLAINT’
INSEAD has not responded to a request by Poets&Quants for comment. INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov, however, sent an email to alumni acknowledging the cancellation of the school’s welcome week and the subsequent investigation. In the email he wrote that the school was “in active dialogue” with French authorities.
“We understand that there is strong support for the welcome week tradition in the alumni community,” Mihov wrote. “However, student health and well-being are our top priority and welcome week cannot continue if it moves students to file a formal complaint.”
INSEAD is, of course, one of the most sought-after MBA programs in the world. It’s also known for not only its hazing practices, but partying and a lax lifestyle. This year the school lost its first-place ranking in The Financial Times to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business after taking the spot in 2016 and 2017.