An Open Letter to Dean Nohria and Faculty, Staff, and Students

Dear Dean Nohria,

I have learned much at HBS from the Professors who make this institution truly great.  I am disheartened, based on the treatment of the HBS Show Presidents, that HBS as an institution does not follow these same principles.

Professor Rebecca Henderson, in Leadership and Corporate Accountability, taught us that often the ends of a business practice do not justify the means.

Professor David Garvin, in General Management Process and Action, taught us that in order for rules to be followed, the processes enforcing those rules must be transparent and fair.

Professor John Wells, in Strategic IQ, taught us that safety is a necessary prerequisite to creating an environment of belonging and esteem.

Professor Steve Campbell, in Managing Service Operations, taught us that the service profit chain hinges on management emphasizing the importance of each and every employee and customer individually.

Finally, Professor Steve Kaufman, in Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise, taught us to do the right thing, no matter the cost, even when no one is watching.  I bring this last one up, because last Friday, I did not do the right thing.

The right thing would have been for me to skip EC Formal and ask for my money back because my sectionmate was not permitted to attend.  The right thing would have been to convince my fellow classmates that an institution that forces us to violate our one fundamental Section B Value, “Leave no ‘B’ Behind”, is not an institution that deserves our support.  The right thing would have been to persuade you earlier that individuals who contribute literally hundreds of hours each year to community building at HBS deserve more than what they received.

In order for students to accept or learn from the disciplinary process, it must be transparent and fair.  This unfairness breeds an environment in which students do not feel psychologically safe to lead or contribute to the HBS community in any meaningful way, and inevitably diminishes the value of each and every student’s experience at HBS.

Given the strong negative reaction in both the EC and RC classes to the sanctions against the HBS Show Presidents, I am proud to say that one of Professor Kaufman’s lessons is being followed: “Have the courage to say ‘NO’, chase change, and keep learning.”

In this spirit, I ask you to reconsider the decision to impose sanctions on the HBS Show Presidents, but much more importantly, I ask you to reconsider the process by which those sanctions were reached.

Please reach out to me if you would like to discuss this further, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Jehan deFonseka

Former Editor-in-Chief, The Harbus