Haas ‘Deeply Sorry’ On MBA Diversity, Vows Action

Seeking to contain the furor over its enrollment of only six African-American full-time MBA students in the fall 2018 class, UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business has released a “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Action Plan” that addresses its diversity shortcomings, acknowledging and accepting widespread criticism leveled at the school after word got out last month that so few black students had been enrolled despite the school admitting 27 African Americans — and despite the fall 2018 cohort being Haas’ biggest-ever, at 291.

A result of meetings with stakeholders across the school including the student-led Race Inclusion Initiative, the Haas Alumni Diversity Council, the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, and the Black Business Student Association, the Haas action plan confronts a perceived lack of inclusiveness at the school and details “necessary actions and concrete plans” for reversing a two-year trend that resulted in a 68% drop in black enrollment in the MBA program. Among the top recommendations: hire a director of diversity admissions and create scholarships available to under-represented minorities, or URMs.

“Our leadership team failed to react quickly or urgently enough,” reads the report, authored by Courtney Chandler, senior assistant dean and chief strategy & operating officer, and Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean of instruction. “The leadership approached the data using an ‘academic’ lens. We looked at the positive previous eight-year trend of increasing African-American enrollment and saw the sudden decline as a two-year statistical anomaly. Even if historically this may have been within our normal range, it doesn’t make our response acceptable — we should never become comfortable with a norm of underrepresentation.

“We need to live up to all of our Defining Leadership Principles and question the status quo. Our actions need to match our intentions. Our slowness to act broke trust with our students and alumni. We are deeply sorry about this.”


UC-Berkeley Haas interim Dean Laura Tyson: “We don’t have adequate funding for scholarships, period.” File photo

Haas’ plan focuses on three main objectives: rebuild trust with underrepresented minority students and alumni; make Haas a community that African-American and all URM students want to join; and increase outreach to, and yield of, URM students at Haas. The last point is a response to the black student yield of 22.2% this fall, which is far below the school’s mark (50.9%) for all admitted students.

To achieve its three goals, the plan outlines nine actions, some of which have already been taken, such as the hiring of a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer in February. Among the highlights are calls to: “change MBA admissions criteria to consider an applicant’s skill set and experience in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion that enhance their contributions to the curricular and co-curricular environment”; establish a Diversity Admissions Council “representing a cross-functional group of staff, faculty, students, and alumni,” including the hiring of up to two second-year full-time MBA students to serve on the FTMBA Admissions Committee; and increase funding for diversity initiatives developed by “affinity groups or other student-led initiatives,” as well as financial support for diversity-related case competitions and academic endeavors and funding for “periodic events for URM community building.”

Importantly, the plan calls for two things that alumni who spoke with Poets&Quants wanted most: the hiring of a director of diversity admissions “with focus on expanding opportunity for all historically underrepresented communities,” and a significant increase in scholarship funding, as well as the pursuit of “options outside of the university that can provide scholarships directly to URM students. The latter goal was strongly voiced by interim Dean Laura Tyson in an interview with P&Q when she said, “We don’t have adequate funding for scholarships, period.” Tyson and incoming Dean Ann Harrison, who will take the reins in January, will be part of the Management Team that implements the action plan’s recommendations.


Haas’ action plan also calls for reducing barriers to applying for scholarships and adopting a first offer-best offer approach to financial aid. Noting that Latinx student enrollment and enrollment of other URM populations, including Pacific Islanders and Native American students, also lags relative to their representation in the state or national population, the plan calls for a stronger relationship management approach to URM student recruitment, “to improve yield and create stronger relationships with URM candidates.” The latter goal can be accomplished by establishing a long-term URM outreach approach “by expanding the MBA applicant pool through direct communications with recent URM undergraduates,” the report reads.

Importantly, the report also defines URMs as “U.S. citizens and permanent residents who identify as Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Islander or multiethnic” — a point of concern for students and alumni who worried that the school might consider adding Asian students to the category to boost enrollment numbers.

As part of its new diversity, equity, and inclusion approach, “Senior leadership commits to lead with a shared diversity, equity, and inclusion vision for Haas, engaging in ongoing training, working toward a deeper understanding, and infusing this vision throughout our school,” the report reads. That includes evolving staff hiring policies and practices “by adding explicit language in job postings to address diversity needs within teams and encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds” and ensur(ing) hiring committees are more representative “and that they have done significant outreach to and considered candidates from diverse backgrounds.”

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