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Alumni Group Supports Case Method at B-School

By Michael G. Harpe

Corporate alumni and advisers of the Harvard Business School support the teaching methods employed by the school in a report which counters criticisms made by President Bok last spring.

A task force of the Associates of Harvard Business School, a group of top-management executives, many of whom are graduates of the B-School, released the 52-page report this week, urging the school to keep the controversial case method as its dominant teaching style.

The task force concluded that the case method--for which the School spends nearly $6 million yearly--is a distinctive student-centered learning process better than lectures in training general business managers.

Bok issued a report last April, suggesting the B-School reduce the emphasis of case method and change its orientation to reflect growing government involvement in business.

The associates' report tries to minimize the differences between its conclusions and Bok's and interprets Bok's report as "a resounding endorsement" of the School.

Marvin Bower, vice chairman of the task force, and an executive of McKinsey & Company, said yesterday the press interpreted Bok's report too negatively.

Several professors at the Business School yesterday agreed with the findings of the report and praised the case method.

E. Raymond Corey, professor of Business Administration, said yesterday Bok did not intend to criticize the case method but rather to urge the B-School proceed further in developing it.

M. Colyer Crum, Williston Professor of Investment Management, said yesterday Bok was trying to ask a series of questions in his report, whereas the task force was basing its assessment on first hand experience.

Some of the questions raised by Bok are nonetheless valid, but not a lot of changes are needed at the Business School, Bower said.

Bok said in his report that "the case method actually limits the time available for students to master analytic techniques and conceptual material."

Bower responded that "the time spent on case method is the best possible training of analytic techniques."

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