Sometimes, MBA antics go beyond our hyper-focused editorial coverage area and makes national — or international — headlines. That was the case for Amy Cooper, who graduated from Chicago’s Booth School of Business, and up until early this summer, worked as a vice president and head of investment solutions at Franklin Templeton Investments in New York City. Cooper was publicly fired on May 26 after a Memorial Day incident that went viral on social media.
The incident? An odd and disturbing videotaped encounter with a black man in Central Park who had asked her to abide by park rules and put her dog on a leash. When he whipped out his smartphone to video the incident, she charged him in a threatening manner, coming within inches of him. Cooper soon joined a growing list of white people calling police on Black people for simply … being Black.
Cooper initially refused to put her dog on a leash, instead threatening the 57-year-old man, Christian Cooper (no relation), a Harvard graduate who works in communications. She screamed that she would call the police to falsely report that he was putting her life in jeopardy. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” She did just that. Mr. Cooper continued to film. And Amy Cooper became an internet figure and microcosm of an America with continued entrenched racial biases.
Gordon Klein, an accounting professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management for almost four decades, found himself in a controversy after an “extremely insensitive, dismissive, and woefully racist response to his students’ request for empathy and compassion during a time of civil unrest,” this past summer. Klein wrote an email that appears to mock a student requesting special accommodations over a final exam in light of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and riots throughout the U.S. The unnamed student asked the professor, author of a textbook on accounting and ethics, to “give black students special treatment, given the tragedy in Minnesota.”
More than 17,000 people have since signed a petition calling for UCLA to dismiss Klein from the school. “Given his background in ethics and liability, one would expect Professor Klein to hold himself to a higher social standing, especially given his position as a steward within higher education,” according to the petition started by UCLA student Preet Bains. “However, his response to students was inappropriate, tone-deaf, and highly insensitive.”
Many top B-schools took different approaches to how they planned on opening classes this fall. In-person. Fully online. Or a hybrid of both were the most popular picks. Regardless of the plan, the lesson from this fall was to stick to it. At Wharton, that’s where leadership failed. After planning on a hybrid approach for most of the summer, the school reversed-course about a month before classes began and moved to fully online courses. And incoming MBAs did not like it. Freshly minted Wharton Dean Erika James, took her fair-share of the flack, as incoming MBAs called her “a crisis management expert who can’t handle a crisis.”
Their biggest criticism: Wharton misled admits with poor communication throughout the summer, delaying announcements and moving back deadlines, then made its big announcement about going fully online to start the fall without also having a Q&A session or offering much additional information. Additionally, they say, the school has not brought students into any of the decision-making about the fall and has been unforgivably inflexible in granting deferrals or considering discounted tuition.
The school’s hybrid approach was originally communicated on July 6 and then reaffirmed in email messages to students on July 9th and 21st. Ten days later, on July 31, came official notification that all courses would pretty much be online. “There were countless promises and misleading communications sent out by the Wharton administration,” one admitted student told us in August. “International students, who have been fighting for months to secure visas to get here, have been especially pushed aside. To receive this surprise update right before school starts, rather than months ago, has disrupted and upended everyone’s plans.”