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INSEAD Welcome Week: Healthy Humbling Or Traumatic Hazing?

An INSEAD Welcome Week party in 2014 sponsored by Booz & Co. Photo from a YouTube video

INITIATION FOR RADICAL SOULS: RUN AND ROCK CLIMB FOR HOURS AND GET SCREAMED AT

For another, INSEAD’s Welcome Week had detrimental and long-lasting affects. The former student, who reached out to Poets&Quants under the condition of anonymity, says the school’s lack of support for those particularly bothered by Welcome Week is what really needs addressing. “My gripe is not so much with Welcome Week itself, but how the administration and school leadership has treated those who didn’t deal well with Welcome Week,” the former student says.

According to the former student, a self-described “workout junkie,” the club they were immediately attracted to was called Radical Souls, a club “focused on extreme sports like rock climbing, running in the cold forest, (and) cliff jumping.” Of course, Radical Souls is one of seven faux clubs entering students can “try out” for; according to club descriptions sent to students and obtained by Poets&Quants from a current concerned student, Radical Souls is for “fitness fanatics.”

“You are expected to train and work out on a daily basis (if not 2-3 times every day) and not be afraid of extreme sports,” the description reads. “They are brave and not afraid to take risks. They like to see how much their body can take. They have great stamina and endurance. They also get a thrill from achieving hardcore/extreme sports objectives (e.g. mounting Kilimanjaro, traveling around the world to complete 42 kilometer marathons). Life without exercising isn’t worth living.”

An INSEAD Welcome Week party in 2014 sponsored by Booz & Co. Photo from a YouTube video

‘THE BIG REVEAL’

The former student was asked to meet others at the Forest of Fontainebleau, a 110-square-mile national forest that borders INSEAD’s campus and is comprised of a massive maze-like network of trails with few distinguishing features. “I ran for hours. I climbed for hours,” the former student says, describing a scene more akin to a fraternity initiation than a club at a prestigious business school. “The club leaders would scream in our ears, calling us fat Renaissance rejects.”

The Raffles/Renaissance Club is another faux club students can try out for. The club supposedly “builds and preserves an image of excellence for our institution through a strong network of like-minded alumni who occupy influential positions in business and politics worldwide.”

‘I CRIED MYSELF TO SLEEP THAT NIGHT’

It wasn’t until the next day during the “big reveal” that the entering students are told the initiations were all a joke and the clubs don’t actually exist. While a joke for some, others were negatively affected by the experience.

“I cried myself to sleep that night because I couldn’t comprehend why people would be so unkind to anyone,” says the former student.

“At the big reveal, the Radical Souls leadership found me crying and tried very hard to cheer me up,” the former student recalls. “I told them it would be OK because I thought that I would be OK. They seemed sincere while at the same time insisting it’s not a big deal.”

An INSEAD Welcome Week party in 2014 sponsored by Booz & Co. Photo from a YouTube video

LACK OF RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION

The student’s first classes began less than a week after Welcome Week, and she says she couldn’t “shake” her anxiety and fear of classmates. The student says she spoke with Dean Ilian Mihov and Sven Biel, director of INSEAD’s MBA program, who allegedly told the MBA candidate that while the experience was unfortunate, the student could start again with the following class in January of 2017.

Asked for comment about the allegations, the school issued a statement: “Due to the ongoing CNCB inquiry, we cannot comment on specific allegations related to the student-led Welcome Week activities. We invite all members of our community to join in the participatory process that will follow the CNCB inquiry to determine our best path forward.”

After re-enrolling, the student perpetuated the Welcome Week hoax to the new classmates. That’s when the student claims to have been asked to be “auctioned off for a night” to help raise funds for the Robin Hood Campaign. Feeling like the request was bordering on sexual harassment, the student says she again complained to Biel.

‘PEOPLE WHO ATTEND INSEAD AREN’T INHERENTLY BAD PEOPLE’

“Predictably, the rest of P1 did not go well, my grades suffered, and I was understandably asked to leave,” the student says. “Sven (Biel) also discouraged me from appealing my dismissal because ‘dismissals are rarely overturned and let’s face it, you don’t belong here.'”

“I want to press the point that the people who attend INSEAD aren’t inherently bad people,” the former student adds. “It’s just this obsession with Welcome Week and the power trip that comes with it brings out the worst in them. The administration could have done so much more to help.”

(See the next page for Dean Mihov’s complete statement to the INSEAD community.)