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Should Harvard Business School
be more like Yale?

The front-page article on gender inequity at Harvard Business School caught my eye in Sunday's New York Times. The multi-page spread seemed excessive, but stil, I sat down and read all 4,883 words.

I was not the only one intrigued by the tales of male students hazing young female professors and of Section X, a "secret society of ultrawealthy, mostly male, mostly international students known for decadent parties and travel."

That sub-theme of wealth—"who joined activities that cost hundreds of dollars, who was invited to the parties hosted by the student living in a penthouse apartment at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Boston," who borrowed "thousands of dollars a year just to keep up socially"—jumped out at a lot of readers. (So many that the Times devoted an entire follow-up article to the subject.)

The culture of wealth, not sexism, was "the most shocking report in the story," wrote Carrie Wofford ’01 JD, a Yale Law School graduate, in a US News opinion article.

"Maybe I'm naive, but I found it disconcerting," wrote Wofford, a Democratic consultant and lawyer in Washington, DC. "Is that really how we're preparing the next generation of our best and brightest?"

Fear not, HBS. Wofford has a solution: be more like Yale.

Quoting a tweet from fellow Yale Law grad Neera Tanden ’96JD ("Dear Yale Law School: Thank you for being the antithesis of Harvard Business School."), Wofford declared that at her alma mater, "students have no idea who among them comes from a wealthy family. Indeed, a student driving a Ferrari would likely be off-putting or seen as ostentatious. The most admired students are those who impress others with particularly insightful comments."

The Yale School of Management, Wofford continued, "is similar, as it tends to attract business students more curious about theories than about the practice of business. . . . There are no grades at Yale's law or business schools (nor, for that matter, at its medical school). So there's no need to compete against each other or for the professor's attention."

Wofford doesn't mention Yale College. But in his speech welcoming this year's freshman, new Yale president Peter Salovey ’86PhD addressed economic inequality head-on, calling it "one of the last taboos among Yale students. When the issue of money comes up," he said, "students are often profoundly uncomfortable."

What do you think, readers? Some of you have degrees from Yale and from Harvard Business School. Does the Elm City ivy really have a more egalitarian, more collaborative culture? Or is that just self-congratulation? And what about the socioeconomic gulf that divides everyone who is privileged enough to attend Yale or Harvard from almost everyone else?

We'd love to hear your comments.

Filed under Harvard, socioeconomic class, Yale Law School, Carrie Wofford, Neera Tanden
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