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ANTI-WAR protests, ghetto assistance programs, and student strikes are slowly coming into vogue at the Harvard Business School. On Moratorium Day last October, more than 500 Business School students signed an anti-war petition and participated in an anti-war march from Soldiers Field to Harvard Square. The Business School is encouraging its faculty members and students to participate in a new half-million-dollar program, the Roxbury Institute of Business Management. And on May 18, the 90 black students in the MBA program went out on strike to protest the murders at Jackson State and in Augusta. Ga.
The black students charged "psychological atrocities of similar magnitude" at the Business School. The black student strike led the Faculty to adopt a series of exam options similar to those at the College (waiving exams, take-home exams, or make-ups in the Fall). Once the exam options were passed, many white MBAs joined wholeheartedly in the strike. Some black and white MBAs are now working together over the summer to plan ways of sensitizing the incoming first-year class to social problems.
The stereotype of 750 first-year MBA students going to their classes in three-piece suits and carrying attache cases, is becoming less and less accurate. They are rebelling against tacitly prescribed dress codes. (Undergraduates may remember that coats and ties were required for College meals as recently as Fall. 1968.) Some MBAs are eagerly applying the business skills taught at the school to become more efficient dealers of marijuana, instead of following the more traditional HBS paths to acquiring profits.
No one at the Business School denies the change in atmosphere most often explained by "the new breed of first-year student." This type of student is not interested primarily in becoming a corporate vice-president soon after he graduates. His immediate goal in life is not merely to exceed the median starting salary for Harvard MBAs ($13,500). Instead, the new breed of Business School student is often interested in going into social work, polities, or education. He goes to the Business School to learn how to deal with businessmen, not to become one.
Administrators in the Admissions Office are partly responsible for this change. They are recruiting more blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and women, and placing more emphasis on getting unusual candidates who do not fit into any corporate image.
The new breed comprises a vocal minority of first-year MBA students manifesting a genuine interest in solving the problems of an ill society which they do not ignore. They are demanding more relevant business cases to study and an all-around smaller work load. One first-year discussion section, which got more than its proportionate number of new breed students, even went so far as organizing a book burning last February. Dozens of copies of Analysis of Decisions Under Uncertainty, by Robert O. Schlaifer, a Business School professor, went up in flames. Unwilling to accept the book passively, bookburner John E. Gilster said at the time. "This is the most unclearly written book in the English language on the subject."
THESE FIRST-YEAR MBAs really never got to know George P. Baker, who retired from the deanship last January. Many of them have spoken to the new dean, Lawrence E. Fouraker, but feel they have not been able to talk to him in any meaningful way. In the years just before he became dean, Fouraker taught only in special advanced programs. As a result virtually no MBA student recognized Fouraker's name when he was awarded the deanship. Fouraker, who has generally refused to discuss with the press any difficulties he is having at the school, was surprisingly frank about his relationship to the MBA student body. "It's still a critical problem," he admitted. "I've thought about a variety of things that could be done. I've thought of trying to teach or perhaps creating some informal mechanism for students to voice complaints."
A hard fight lies ahead for new breed people remaining at the school. Over the summer, the administration will have to investigate the charges of insensitivity to black students and will have to make plans for immediate implementation of programs such as a Sensitizing Week. Otherwise, the school may face a continuation of Afro's Spring strike in September. Next year, there will be 135 black students instead of 90. along with about 25 Mexican and Puerto Rican students instead of 7. The number of women may also jump from the 60 this year. All these minority groups will demand a more sympathetic administration. The Business School is obviously far from reaching its peak in student discontent because the socialty sensitive students have just begun to fight.
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