Earlier this year, when The Financial Times released its annual ranking of global MBA programs, a familiar name was absent. The IE Business School was nowhere to be found. The exclusion led to the firing of two staffers and forced resignation of another in an effort to regain the trust of the school’s alumni base.
In a letter to alumni and IE’s senior leaders, the school also said for the first time that it could not rule out the possibility of “wrong doing” by IE staffers that resulted in the newspaper’s decision to remove the school from its ranking for the first time ever. And has reassigned the management of the rankings from external relations to Martin Boehm, dean of the business school.
According to the FT, IE was excluded because of “irregularities” in the alumni survey, claiming that alums outside of the Class of 2014 — the intended alumni group to be surveyed — completed the survey. “We take the integrity of our rankings very seriously and this is not the first time a school has been disqualified,” a spokesperson for the FT told P&Q. “In this case, the quality of the data we received was not good enough. We received surveys completed by people who were not who we thought they were. We alerted IE to this issue and we have asked them to urgently tighten their data collection procedures so that they can be included in future rankings.”
The alumni survey makes up 59% of the ranking’s methodology. The FT has removed schools from its ranking, which launched in 1999, but has never removed a school as highly regarded as IE, which placed eighth in the 2017 ranking.
When INSEAD announced this summer that it would no longer be allowing its orientation, Welcome Week, it set off a tremendous outpouring from alums arguing for and against the controversial event. First reported by The Financial Times, two incoming INSEAD students formally filed complaints about hazing to the Comité National Contre le Bizutage, or French National Committee Against Hazing. The INSEAD newcomers charged that the student-run, one-and-a-half day event put incoming students through uncomfortable initiation activities. We reported a similar story and then the comments and emails to P&Q staff members ignited.
As the school got a first taste of scandal, clear lines were drawn, and camps emerged both for and against the school’s Welcome Week. Among the more prominent voices calling for the event to be restored is Leonid Bershidsky, an INSEAD alum and Bloomberg columnist who wrote an opinion piece in support of the 35-year-old orientation tradition. “Welcome Week definitely got us out of our comfort zone, and I know many of us felt unsettled and, yes, unsafe or at least uncertain about our future at the school and its demands,” Bershidsky wrote in an essay. “Being forced to look at oneself in a harsh mirror held up by one’s peers could be even more traumatic than a 24-hour workout.”
At issue, was the portion of the week when students join student-run clubs that end up being fake. Some of the clubs put students through some embarrassing and excruciating rites of passage before the already enrolled students reveal to the incoming students the clubs are just made up.
One former student recounted her experience to P&Q and claimed she 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 said, 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.”
Either way, the removal of the event certainly got a heated discussion going. For now, at least, future INSEAD students will not be participating in any hazing in Welcome Week.