The editor-in-chief of The Harbus, the weekly student paper for the Harvard Business School (HBS), resigned suddenly last Wednesday to protest what he called threatening action on the part of the HBS administration.
After administrators criticized a cartoon that ran in the Oct. 28 issue, editor-in-chief Nick A. Will was called into a meeting with Steven R. Nelson, executive director of the MBA Program.
According to Will’s resignation letter, Nelson threatened him with disciplinary action in a Nov. 4 meeting.
“I know that Nick is very scared, and I know that the Harbus staff is very scared,” said Will’s close friend, who is a second-year student at HBS. “Nick didn’t resign because he felt like it, but because he thought he might get kicked out of school. He’s had some people tell him that these guys play hardball and you’re not necessarily safe.”
Both Will and cartoonist Matt Stovcsik declined to comment yesterday.
According to Will’s letter, Nelson told Will that he would be held “personally accountable as a student for all content in The Harbus...should someone else in the administration disagree with [his] editorial judgment.”
The editorial cartoon mocked the persistent bugs that have plagued Career Link—the server that students use to post resumes and sign up for job interviews. It depicted a computer screen cluttered with pop-up announcements—a spoof of the messages Career Link sends out to students when they attempt to post resumes on the overcrowded server.
Most of the announcements were lighthearted messages, such as “Please attach three random documents to sign up for interviews.”
Some were more caustic in tone: “Career Services absolves itself of any and all responsibility for the functionality of Career Link despite the fact we selected the vendor.”
The words “incompetent morons,” which appear in one of the pop-up windows, provoked administrative response when HBS Career Service Officer Matthew S. Merrick told senior administrators that he felt offended by the phrase, according to HBS Senior Associate Dean Walter C. Kester.
According to students, the cartoon was intended solely as a critique of Career Link.
“Most students thought the cartoon was intended as an attack on the computer program—its unreliability was the primary source of frustration with recruiting this year,” said Annemarie C. Jensen, Student Association co-president.
But administrators and career service staff read the cartoon’s humor differently.
“That phrase seems to attack people—namely career services—rather than a computer program,” Kester said.
“But if those two words were not in the cartoon, we probably wouldn’t have sought any meeting at all.”