HBS slammed for suspending in-person classes due to COVID outbreak

Boston, Massachusetts, USA – October 2018: Harvard Business School building in Cambridge Massachusetts USA.

A Washington post columnist criticizes the Harvard Business School for disrupting in-person MBA classes and going online after a COVID outbreak among students.

Under the title, “Suspending in-person classes is not the right choice“Conservative columnist Megan McArdle berated the school administration for what they believe is an overreaction to some positive cases.

“These interventions were right to do in September 2020, when the alternative was to let covid-19 devastate vulnerable populations unhindered,” she wrote. “But we are in 2021. We have several extremely effective vaccines that significantly reduce the risk of symptomatic disease. Even if you have a revolutionary case, vaccines reduce the risk of dying or passing it on to others. “


The school has moved all freshmen and some MBA students’ classes online for a week from last Monday, following a spike in COVID-19 cases the school attributed to off-campus social gatherings ranging from MBA students sharing an Airbnb for the weekend to dinner get-togethers in an apartment (see Harvard Business School Moves Classes Online As COVID Cases Rise). The move was effective last week, from September 27 to October 3.

As of Thursday, HBS had counted 121 cases among MBA students since July 1, with nearly 60 students isolated that day. Freshmen accounted for about 75 percent of these positive cases.

“We are an outlier among Harvard schools in our numbers,” four HBS administrators wrote in an email to students on Sept. 28. “MBA students make up about 9% of the University’s student body, but made up over two-thirds of total student cases in September. Our positivity rate is 12 times higher than the rest. of Harvard. ”The email was sent by HBS Dean Srikant M. Datar, Executive Dean of Administration Angela Q. Crispi, Executive Director of MBA and PhD Programs Jana P. Kierstead and Senior Associate Dean Jan W. Rivkin.


Washington Post Columnist Megan McArdle

The university’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that in the past seven days, 60 of the 74 positive cases reported were graduate students. “These distressing numbers are so high that they have caught the attention of local public health officials. Our community can and must do better, ”according to the email which urged students to stop all unmasked indoor social activities.

McArdle, a self-described “right-wing libertarian” who also holds an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. had none. “This request has a certain begging quality,” she wrote. “MBAs are there to network with other MBAs and to score interviews with elite companies, not to master course content. They can rebel by paying $ 100,000 a year to stay home and watch a screen. “

His opinion piece also claimed that the outbreak was a likely consequence of the MBA culture. “It will come as no surprise to anyone who went to graduate school that among all of Harvard’s graduate departments, the business school experienced the great outbreak of COVID-19. As an architect I know noted about her time at Harvard: “The MBAs seemed to really celebrate. “


Unsurprisingly, perhaps, McArdle’s column fueled a storm of controversy, with over 600 mostly critical comments attached to the article. Reader after reader has beaten the columnist for her opinions.

“The problem is, these students don’t just interact with each other. They interact with people all over Cambridge, ”wrote one commenter, concern_voter. “Wouldn’t it be irresponsible of Harvard to ignore a Covid outbreak at its business school when people outside the school are also impacted?” Boosters are only being deployed now to protect vulnerable people. In light of this, Harvard’s position seems to me to be quite reasonable. “

“Jesus,” added another reader. “Can we really be in this nightmare for so long and still have silly newspaper columnists who don’t know how deadly viruses spread?”


“Your arrogance to treat HBS students like some sort of creature from another planet is out of the ordinary,” one commentator ridiculed.

Even some MBAs have joined the debate. “What a waste of the author’s Washington Post platform with this poorly argued editorial. Harvard is right to move its MBA program online, at least temporarily, ”one wrote. “This decision is necessary to protect the professors, students and staff of HBS. While students at HBS are typically in their mid-twenties, many faculty and staff are in a more vulnerable demographic. Did McArdle consider, for example, the HBS custody and catering staff? The stereotype of all MBAs as privileged revelers is also offensive. Of course, some MBA students fit this description, but many are hard workers who take their studies seriously. I have an MBA and was part of the second group.

Reader criticism quickly spread from McArdle to the newspaper’s editors. “I just can’t understand why the Washington Post would publish public health advice by someone who has no expertise in public health. I guess airline pilots don’t turn to Ms. McCardle for advice on how to fly an airplane. Why would anyone turn to her for advice on how to deal with a pandemic? 4,655 people died from it last week. Maybe we should listen to people who know what they are talking about.

And then there was this point of view expressed by another reader: “Harvard Biz School has unleashed enough disasters against us as a country. Anything that slows down its ability to corrupt our country is greatly appreciated.


The editors of Harvard Crimson, in the meantime, applauded the school for suspending in-person classes. In an editorial published yesterday (October 1), editors called the move a “tactful response.”

“HBS’s brief comeback online is a shocking reminder that COVID-19 is still very much with us,” according to the Crimson. “We need to take this as an indication that we all need to act responsibly when it comes to protecting ourselves and others from Covid-19 – even outside of our formal classes and university events, and even when no one don’t look.

“Harvard’s decision to move the online courses for a single week to the Business School is a tactful response, and its bespoke nature is a tremendous source of relief. The choice is indicative of the University’s capacity for agile and proportional action in response to changing circumstances. It also suggests that we have learned a lot over the past 18 months about how to respond to Covid-19, with a better understanding of what is needed to curb an increase in cases: increasing our testing rates and de-densifying everything if possible. preserve the residential experience. We are also excited about Harvard’s cooperation with local government officials to ensure this epidemic does not spread to the city of Cambridge or beyond. This week’s online course came after local and state public health officials notified him. All of these short-term measures promise to bring long-term gains, both for our own peace of mind and for the real protection of our community. “


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