Out with Uncertainty

Nishkam Prabodh, Contributor

What is the view from RC, as the class of 2022 looks to embrace the uncertain future? 

With a week before the official start of the term, a cocktail of eagerness, delirium, and mortal dread pervades the incoming RC camp. Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the lives and travel plans of the incoming students, exacerbating what was supposed to be an already tense time in their intense lives. 

“I don’t know what’s the worst thing to come out of this pandemic, that I can’t get to campus in time for the Boston 101 picnic in the park or that there will be no FIELD trips to Asia this year,” asked a concerned international candidate, even as global cases breached the 21 million mark at the time of writing.

In a quest to keep FOMO at bay, the freshly forged would-be first-year students have invested heavily in what the pre-matriculation experience has had to offer. 

Providing comfort and camaraderie to the cohort, apart from millions of social media groups of HBS admits of the same cities, regions, states, countries, sub-continents, and continents, are the 169 channels on the incoming RC slack group. Representing all facets and interests of the RC group, channels such as #catsofhbs, #pupsofhbs, #equestrian (for anyone who likes being around horses!) have added a touch of class and even more range to an already diverse community with such varied interests as consulting, finance, and consulting. 

The HBS administration, too, has ably extended support and counsel to the pandemic-jinxed batch. Stepping up their game in these uncertain times, the admin team has unleashed several guidelines for the leaders of tomorrow to follow. While most of them have been lauded, there have been a few complaints, too. In a strange development, a group of rising RCs has raised serious objections to the over-reliance on the use of the word “Uncertainty” in official communication. 

Calling the word “inimical to Harvard’s motto,” the #OutWithUncertainty (OWU) group has called for an absolute ban on the usage of “Uncertainty and like, related terms” in all HBS communication. The outfit has garnered significant support in the last four months. 

“It started as a drinking game; we would drink every time ‘Uncertain’ or ‘Uncertainty’ was mentioned during webinars, mails or blog posts,” explained Anita Job (MBA ’22), one of the founding members of the OWU. “We wanted to ensure we were really embracing it, the uncertainty,” she added with a sad smile. The outfit soon inspired several spin-off virtual drinking clubs with people also chugging to every utterance of “unsure,” “dynamic” and “transformational experience.”

With certainty being in short supply this summer, the members found themselves guzzling obscene amounts of alcohol in single sittings, as “Uncertain(ty)” alone was uttered once every 10 seconds or so in 90-minute webinars. 

“It got really bad, man. We embraced it too much. I mean, we really got into it…people lost jobs and stuff. It had to stop, bro,” Moe Heeto (MBA ’22) slurred, another OWU member, when reached for comment after the Fall Planning Webinar. After a few members  missed out on the deferment decision deadline, having blacked out reading the Dean’s daily message, the OWU started petitioning Dean Nohria to enforce a blanket ban on the use of the U-word in all HBS communication. When reached for comment, the Dean’s office responded that they were uncertain whether such a ban could be enforced.

The protests have seen a spike in the last month as OWU found mainstream appeal. Virtual crowds have flocked to the outfit’s cause even as most newcomers remain uncertain of the underlying issue. “Don’t know,” said Eegar Tumpress (MBA ’22), a former consultant, when asked about the reason for the protests. “Can’t miss out on that networking though, bud.” This ably captured the essential sentiment behind most cohort pursuits this summer.

Notwithstanding bizarre protests and rampant drinking, students and staff look set to embrace the uncertainty in all its socially distant forms as the school cautiously reopens for business. People are flocking to the campus from all over the world to move promptly into quarantines and join each other online, once again. While on-campus mobility remains low, hopes remain high that smaller rooms, hectic schedules, and frequent Covid-19 testing will help calm nerves as the Class of 2022 takes its first tentative steps in its uncertain journey to make a (virtual) difference in the world. 

Nishkam Prabodh (MBA ’22) grew up in India and received his bachelor’s degree from IIT Delhi. Prior to HBS, he worked at a consumer healthcare start-up and as a consultant. He tries very hard to give off the impression that he doesn’t try that hard.