This afternoon, we had a Q&A session with Frank Brown, who has been appointed to succeed Gabriel Hawawini as Dean of INSEAD in July of this year. The appointment had been surprising, as Frank is not only the first American, but also the first business veteran (as opposed to a career academic) to lead our school. He has been with PricewaterhouseCoopers for the past 26 years, most recently heading their global advisory services.
The session was indeed insightful. The students appreciated Frank’s plans to improve career services and to maintain a high quality faculty, but some of his other statements did not go down as favorably. In particular, when asked about what he planned to change at INSEAD, he referred to some “inappropriate behavior” by students which “would not be tolerated in the business world” and therefore should not be tolerated at a business school either. Asked to elaborate further, he cited “drinking alcohol before 6pm” and “bringing alcohol to class” as some of the obvious examples of such “inappropriate behavior”.
If I take this a bit further, this means no more champagne celebrations for birthdays or newborn babies on campus on Friday afternoons. No more champagne sponsored by the professor during our last class. And no more champagne at the bar to mark to end of our exams. Somehow this doesn’t feel right. Does Frank know that – we are in France, after all – the INSEAD restaurant serves red wine with lunch and dinner? And what about Welcome Week – do we want to sacrifice an INSEAD tradition on the altar of political correctness?
Clearly, I do not agree with Frank on this issue. And I am worried that his views may pose a threat to the liberal spirit and atmosphere of mutual respect here at INSEAD which make the school what it is.
Thankfully, Frank’s remarks did not go unnoticed during the session. One of my classmates asked how he felt about imposing his values on the international community at INSEAD by forcing such standards. After an awkward moment of silence, the auditorium broke out in applause. I hope that Frank Brown took note of the sensitivity of this issue.
During my first week at INSEAD, one of my classmates – not an English native speaker – was struggling to find a politically correct term for “peasants”. Our accounting professor, an American who has taught at Harvard, interrupted him by saying “This is INSEAD, not Havard, we don’t need to be PC!” (i.e. politically correct). I hope this won’t change come July.
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UPDATE: Wow! In reply to a short email to Frank Brown pointing to this entry, I got an almost instant reply from him saying I should not take him too literally and that “we will know what is inappropriate”. So I have decided to give him the benefit of the doubt for now – and I look forward to having a Dean who is as responsive to students as he is.