Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2002 / 16 Kislev, 5763

Tresa McBee

Tresa McBee
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Sticks and stones injure over at Harvard | I feel for sensitive folks. I really do. Life must be one big bruise.

It's tough being delicate.

Just ask the powers-that-be over at Harvard Business School. It's been a rough year, what with a recent employer survey of business schools that ranked HBS an appalling No. 9. That another survey put Harvard slightly higher at No. 3 doesn't help much. Image: It counts.

So it really stung that those rascally students over at The Harbus, the business school's independent student newspaper, had to go and point out that slight snafu with HBS Career Link in an Oct. 28 cartoon, "Pre Hell Week Horror Story."

The editorial cartoon lampooned computer problems that messed up students' interview schedules during an intense interview week. With the job market tight and high salaries even tighter, one can understand how missing a meeting with a potential employer might cause distress among the Ivy League of the Ivy League. One doesn't attend Harvard to be subject to computer problems that plague the rest of us.

The Harbus cartoon transformed HBS Career Link into HBS Career Dink with pop-up error messages, including one sure to rankle in-charge types who pass the buck when it becomes clear they shouldn't be in charge: "Career Services absolves itself of any and all responsibility for the functionality of Career Dink despite the fact that we selected the vendor."

But that wasn't the worst of it for those delicate souls in charge at HBS. It was the cartoon's "incompetent morons" pop-up that did it. Cue the sirens and call the sensitivity police.

The head of the business school's MBA Career Services, which runs the computers, told administrators he was offended. So the executive director of the MBA program met with Nick Will, The Harbus' editor-in-chief, to explain the school's dismay that an editorial cartoon would be so hurtful.

And let's not forget a favorite among academics these days -- "community standards," which Will was told he violated. Long story short, Will says he was warned by school administrators to steer clear of questionable language and that he would be personally accountable for all content if some educrat found future offense. A principled fellow, Will rightly resigned.

And the backpedaling began.

Because, really, if that cartoon had just been nice and avoided wounding language, this whole incident could have been avoided. Besides, administrators were under the impression that any meeting with Will would remain unofficial. As in, don't tell anyone we attempted to intimidate you into submission. It's good practice for backroom deals.

See, this was supposed to be an informal discussion regarding sensitivity and how best to serve the Harvard community, which clearly doesn't happen when students point out problems. People have feelings. As Carl Kester, chairman of the MBA program, told The Boston Globe, the cartoon's injurious "incompetent morons" pop-up appeared to insult career-services employees.

"If it weren't for those two words, nothing would have been said or done to the students," Kester explained. "There was just a palpable sense that this had damaged the feelings of people working very hard on behalf of students."

Boo-hoo. Pass the hanky.

Oh, and -- so what? Who cares? Rather than whining about damaged self-esteem on account of those meany students, how about fixing the computer problem so it doesn't recur? Acquiring a thicker skin would be useful, too.

And don't forget a dictionary. Because those hypersensitive Harvard MBAs need to put aside all that number crunching as they groom future Enronites long enough to look up "satire," which employs sarcasm and ridicule to make fun of things that are easily made fun of -- like a computer system that doesn't do what it's designed to do. Looking up "editorial" wouldn't hurt either. It's called an opinion, and you don't have to like it.

But beyond the issue of an independent student newspaper exercising its free speech is this: We have too many whiners who offend too easily -- or cloak themselves in sensitivity to exert control. It infects our institutions at all levels, resulting in corporate bureaucracies that are ineffective, because we're too busy shielding incompetence and driving off and silencing those who speak straight.

Harvard's Kester told the Globe, "Our students are going to be leading organizations and people someday, and they need to learn from time to time about how their words and actions might influence others."

Mr. Kester and his ilk need to heed that sanctimonious advice.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Tresa McBee is a columnist for the Northwest Arkansas Times. Comment by clicking here.

11/14/02: Girls will be boys
11/06/02: Ask the fake pros
10/31/02: Abused again: Domestic Violence Awareness Month's discrimination
10/24/02: Men have finally caught up
10/16/02: The mental illness of a relationship
10/09/02: Little monsters
10/02/02: Synonym salad
09/25/02: America has no right to criticize any country
09/18/02: Hey, Bill: Time to enter the No Ego Zone
09/11/02: Reliving 9/11 again and again and ...
09/04/02: The price of success: When being a responsible father is not enough
08/28/02: When separate can be equal --- and better
08/22/02: Egypt and Saudi Arabia: Curious inconsistencies
08/15/02: Hey, fellas: Beware the fairer sex ain't always fair
08/08/02: Why women will remain the at-risk gender
08/01/02: Girl: The new four-letter word?

© 2002, Northwest Arkansas Times