Darden 101: What business schools really do

By Ron Wilcox

To believe the common narrative of what happens in business schools you have to imagine professors teaching such courses as “How to Steal from Widows” and “Exploiting Loopholes in Financial Regulation: Advanced Readings.” You have to believe that business schools are at best morally ambivalent and probably something less, a university’s grudging genuflection to the lucrative realities of wealthy alumni. Their imperious alumni lurk in the halls of the great universities and are the puppeteers of the administration. Their latest victim was Teresa Sullivan.

This is an ignorant view, detached from the realities of modern graduate business schools.

Graduate business schools share some of the blame for this ignorance. In an understandable but short-sighted rush to insulate their relative prosperity from the rest of the university, they have built up barriers— physical, financial, and intellectual— from their parent institutions. This is understandable because having fewer barriers entails risk. Allow the greater university to access your wealth and you may soon have a mediocre business school, unable to pay competitive salaries to professors and scholarships to promising students. But the costs are high as well: your better business school becomes detached from the broader conversation about what practically-grounded academics offers the world.

The faculties of modern graduate business schools are on the leading edge of practical issues in economics, psychology, and even philosophy. Where many disciplines have retreated to speaking only to other academics, business schools have no such luxury. Their faculty has to face real-world businesses, institutions, and people that make economic decisions. Failure to do so risks the swift discipline of the market and the public rebuke of their alumni. This constantly-uncomfortable balancing act between the demands of the academy and that of the business world produces research of uncommon importance.

The research emerging from leading graduate business schools is in many substantive areas superior to that of any other academic discipline. In a world where complex group interactions mean the difference not only between profitability and bankruptcy, but also war and peace, research from business schools dominates.

A cursory review of the research my Darden colleagues are doing includes how authoritative management structures affect moral decision making, why foreign companies come to the United States to raise capital, and how to incentivize greater basic research at companies. This summer, I’ll be researching whether excessive student loan debt causes students to spend carelessly in other parts of their lives. Call me biased, but I see social good rather than evil here.

And if you think that the senior executives of America’s most powerful companies don’t contemplate these larger social issues, you are wrong. Including my academic colleagues both within and outside Darden, some of the most voraciously well-read and intellectually curious people I’ve ever met are senior business (and military) leaders. They did not assume the leadership of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people by accident.

If there is one characteristic that defines students who enroll in the much-maligned elite MBA programs is that they are, almost to a person, intent on changing things. The average student is not a greed-crazed master-of-the-universe type. There are a few Gordon Gekkos, but they are the distinct minority. More likely are students who, say, studied engineering, became engineers, and then gradually came to the realization that they had some natural leadership skills that were not being used by their current employers. These students gambled on themselves, quit their jobs, and went back to school. They are motivated pragmatists, less inclined to start the next protest about local housing conditions, but more inclined to fix someone’s house.

In his latest book, The Righteous Mind, the University’s own Jonathan Haidt explores the primitives of why human beings gravitate toward demonizing anyone who disagrees with them. Facts be damned, extravagant caricatures of our perceived enemy are more natural for people. President Sullivan’s removal is deeply hurtful and disorienting. Although The Darden School played no role whatsoever in her ouster, some of its alumni were involved in the decision. The School has become that demon that our minds all too readily create.

The fact that Darden School alumni were involved in this decision should come as no newsworthy surprise: university boards are generally peopled by loyal alumni who contribute large sums to the university and to the political campaigns of governors who, in turn, appoint them to the governing board of a university. Wealthy business people are more likely to make those financial commitments. This has been the case for many years, and we have all tacitly bought into that system. If we now find this state of affairs distasteful, the proper recourse is at the steps of the Governor’s mansion, not the steps of the graduate school that some board members attended.

History will judge the wisdom of the Board of Visitors’ decision. But that doesn’t stop many from seeking an enemy immediately, facts be damned.
Ron Wilcox is a Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.

Read more on: darden


Whole lotta truth to that.

Let the spin begin.

Translated plainly:

"Me like Darden. Darden signs my paycheck. Stop picking on us."

This, from a professor who specializes is marketing and branding.

Oh, and whose "facts" are these?

"Although The Darden School played no role whatsoever in her ouster, some of its alumni were involved in the decision. The School has become that demon that our minds all too readily create."

This, Ron, is a statement of your opinion based only on information that is only accurate to the best of your knowledge. The confidence of your assertion hinges entirely on what you are not privvy to, which is almost certainly a lot as this story continues to unravel.

The fact is, the Darden alumni are a product of the Darden School. Dragas learned her Draconian management style from Darden faculty. Sure, her natural inclination toward underhandedness played a roll, but the tools she needed to engineer this mess were taught to her at Darden.

Students enroll at Darden not to become leaders -- such a grand notion! -- so much as to increase their earning opportunities -- tremendously so. They want to make a lot of money, which is reflected in their eyes and in the opulent spaces on the Darden campus.

History also shows us that Darden provides the skills that, when placed in the hands of megalomaniacal sociopaths, only lead to the meltdown of financial markets, upside-down real estate markets and, occasionally, the treacherous and coerced removal of a true leader in furtherance of political, financial and personal ambition. I speak of Sullivan's ouster, of course.

To grandstand about the nobility of business or a business school in a world already weary of the well-known havoc created by MBA people is specious, at best. At worst, your fleeting observations in print and on this website are just a cynical marketing effort to restore some semblance of credibility to Darden's seriously diminished brand.

I do not begrudge you the effort; I merely laugh at your heavy-handed deployment of obvious marketing techniques.

Here are questions for your consideration:

When the dust finally settles, will Darden's development office stop going after Kiernan, Kington, Dragas, et. al., for donations to the school?

Will the alumni affairs office stop ordering plaques and honoraria engraved with these people's names in order to commemmorate their achievements?

Ron, a School or a University is not a collection of buildings, ideas or even beliefs. It is the people who live and breathe within the boundaries of that School. To separate the school from the alumni, or to distance the institution from the people who benefitted from its teachings, is just a classic diversionary tactic.

Give Bob Bruner my regards when you two decamp to discuss this latest strategem in damage control.

Thus far, your spin does not convince.

While it's nice to see this balanced presentation, this is more of a spin-piece - opinion - than an intro to Business 101. It would be more interesting - and more persuasive, if the author had:

- explained what courses MBAs actually take.

- what fields they go into - the general impression is that the vast majority study and then go into "finance" which is a nice word for Gordon Gekko rent-seeking.

- where the faculty who do this 'research' get their training. For example, I'm a fan of Dan Arielly, who does interesting research in psychology and economics (the type of things the author mentions) first while at Sloan (MIT's business school) and now at Fuqua (Duke's business school), but was really trained in Liberal Arts: philosophy, psychology, physics and math. His original PhD is in Psychology, not business.

I certainly don't refute the author's premise that MBAs are inherently evil or rapacious - it's a silly canard to demonize people, I agree.

However, just because it is generally true that the most successful people in business (like the rest of society) are intellectually curious, this does not imply that business or business schools uniquely attract the intellectually curious, nor does it imply business rewards intellectual curiousity.

The stereotype of finance MBAs exists for a reason; and indeed, no character flaws need be attritubuted to explain the stereotype. They are doing what they are trained to do.


You left out something else: business administration, as a major, was the first modern university major that did not require any ethics courses. That has, thankfully, changed, but the damage was done -- large numbers of business leaders from the previous generation had simply never taken an ethics course, and their behavior reflected that. There are still plenty of people who fail to distinguish between what is legal and what is moral.

Business School is a worthy enterprise for those interested in money and management. But let's be honest, despite the adornments of architecture, salary, and alumni contributions, Darden and other b-schools are little more than trade schools. Schools like UVa and UPenn with codes of Honor should distance themselves from these institutions that forsake ethics for institutional profitability.

I'm sure there are good people at Darden, but this sort of spin does not make up for the majority of "product" the school produces. Darden is not a positive example of UVa' code of Honor.

True enough, not all MBA's are evil. But let's be honest, most MBAs are not gained in order to make the world a warm, fuzzy place...

Darden has some very important ethics faculty on yonder hill. It would be very interesting to hear their view on all this. Wouldn't stakeholder theory suggest that not all interested parties were properly accounted for in this decision by Darden alums? Maybe they didn't take those courses?

Based on what's been made public, this all looks like nothing more than means-to-end machination. And despite the "greater good" pointed to by Dragas et al., such thinking and acting seems to fly in the face of the kind of ethics taught at Darden.

Thank you Ron - This is probably the first reasonable article written in the Hook over the past two weeks.

@pfft - take your crazy rants, conspiracies, and stereotypes elsewhere. any decent point you are trying to make is clearly undermined by your extreme rhetoric. you are obviously extremely bitter about something, take a deep breathe.

FYI, the Darden School was the FIRST business school in the country to make business ethics a required course for first year students. There are still some schools that don't offer ethics at all.

@ TheDude: Really, little fella, is that your best jab?

I obviously cut you close to the bone for you to get your undies all in a twist. You have never, not once, offered any intelligent rebuttal of anyone you disagree with. Instead, your simple mind switches into silly name calling. Anyone you disagree with is crazy, conspiratorial, stereotyping, ad nauseuam. Troll.

Methinks you've been swilling too many White Russians, which have addled your feeble mind.

Time will tell who is right. If I am wrong or in any way inaccurate in the way I represent this situation, I will apologize. But I know first-hand of what I describe.

Are you man enough to do the same? Are you a man at all, little dude? Go ahead: peck all day on your mom's computer keyboard. I've got work to do.

What a puff piece. What needs to be changed is the composition of the Board. In my own SEC university the governor of the state is on the board. As are two members of the faculty (one voting and one not) and two members of the student body (one voting and one not) No billionaires, though. Thank God.

You actually fired the President of the University without a full meeting of the Board? How did that happen?

We always looked to Virginia as to what a school should be. Not so much now.

@ VA Girl:

Exactly! So, wouldn't it be nice if those faculty offered some insight that moved beyond a sweeping defense of business schools? The argument that MBA students are intrinsically laudable because "they are, almost to a person, intent on changing things" is not at all reassuring. Change, in and of itself, is not valuable. Although it appears that those pushing for this current overhaul seem to think the exact opposite. Change toward or away from what? How is that change to happen? We all understand that change can and often does include latent functions, yes?

Sure, non-academics can and probably should play a role in governing the school. But, should they be alone in that governance? How can that make any sense? The "business" of higher ed is the production of knowledge and the next generation of educated adults. If the "business" of higher ed. becomes of the production of profits, the other two will invariably suffer.

If what we've seen so far is the demonstration of a Mastery of Business Administration, the business is not in good hands.

Darden Business 101 Screw your customers, screw your employees, screw the tax man, reward yuorself with perks calling it "overhead", game the numbers to keep the stockholders fooled, do a strategic bankruptsy, repeat.

If you look at succesful small and medium sized busineses where the customers and employees are both happy and the owners are making a tidy profit you will seldom find an MBA at the head of it. You will also notice that they have small advertising budgets because they often have in common the old adage "if you build a better mousetrap people will beat a path to your door"

Darden is for people who are interested in making money through leveraging and manipulation of the marketplace. It teaches ways to (legally if not ethically) steal market share. It would for instance encourage someone to open a giant bodyshop in the area and cut deals with all the insurance companies at the expense of a dozen smaller ones who were quite content to share the their respective pieces of the pie. While that IS a way to make money, it is still not really "earning it, because at the end of the day(year) you simply have a lot of unhappy customers because of the lower quality impersonal service, unhappy employees because of the impersonal working envrionment and usually lower wages, and the "benificiaries" are the passive investors, the insurance companies because they cut a deal (and kept the savings for themselves), and the Darden MBA who was able to make a buttload of money doing the deal.

While we need extremely intelligent people to negotiate the very complex world of global finance where billions can be won or lost in a matter of hours, that is only a potion of what Darden teaches. Mostly it is about how to make money without really earning it. They may teach ethics, but it is sort of like an atheist reading the Bible... not for the conversion, but for the knowledge of what others are doing so you can work around it.

There is nothing wrong wih making money but the belief that outmanuvering someone else with other peoples money at the expense of human beings is "earning" it is a misnomer. Mostly it is a sad reflection and compensation for having very little else to offer the world.

That is why we occasionally see MBAs give it alll up to paint, but painters seldom give up their artistry to go and play the stock market.

Darden is nessasary, and I am actually OK with them having some fiduciary input into how UVA can deliver the best bang for the buck, but they need to be watched as the foxes should never have the keys to the henhouse.


"They (Darden) may teach ethics, but it is sort of like an atheist reading the Bible... not for the conversion, but for the knowledge of what others are doing so you (Darden MBAs) can work around it."

short sales (profiting from others' misery - sometimes misery you create yourself to then short the company) ask someone from Goldman how to do it. You too can be a hedge fund manager.

@theDude--I think you meant to end your rebuttal with "breath," not the verb "breathe." Also, the first word of a sentence should begin with a capital letter. I think some old, jaded, ultra-liberal, underpaid academic of the classics taught me that useless stuff.

Now, for the important stuff...
R.I.P.: Rodney Glen King--a fine man, yet a complex one!

Libralace is growing on me.

The idea that wealthy alumni have influence in the business school is pragmatic but incomplete. The most influential should be the most prosperous, who were also well-respected for their integrity. This does not include those who made big money by selling paper with obscure trap doors built in.

mike --

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Short positions are not intrinsically evil, and can play an important role in mitigating risks. It is not just a matter of profiting from someone's misery.

That's why ethics need to be taught and why ethics courses in general should be required in all business schools. Short positions can be used in productive ways, or they can be used in destructive ways. The ethical question that businessmen need to ask is whether their profit was productive or destructive, regardless of the strategy they use.

-- B

Fifty years ago Dwight Eisenhower warned the country about the "unwarranted influence" of the military-industrial complex, whether "sought or unsought". But the Darden school dean is unaware of the likelihood of unwarranted influence of billionaire giving on a university? As long as the ego-maniacally named sports stadia and "meditation centers" keeping popping up like crabgrass all will be well?

You really need to change the composition of the board and the way it is conducted. Getting rid of Dragas will not really solve anything; there will always be someone like her waiting for an opportunity.

Right now Virginia has a governor who is loathe to cross these same billionaire donors and apparently hopes the firestorm will just go away. Just pathetic.

The notion that taking an ethics course will make you ethical is pretty funny. Not that it hurts. People learn their ethics from their mums & dads.

Yeah, and people who spent their college and post-college years taking courses that teach them the importance of profit and how to develop profitable strategies may forget what their parents taught them about morals and ethics. If we do nothing but train people to be ruthless businessmen, no amount of good parenting will keep those people within ethical boundaries.

As someone who grew up in Charlottesville, went to UVa undergrad with an Anthropology and Finance double major, is currently in a fulltime MBA program from Darden, has sat on the Piedmont Council for the Arts board, and has founded and owned several small businesses in Charlottesville for 5 years, I am a little disturbed by the community’s accusations and assumptions about Darden.

The idea that business people are “greedy little bastards trying to do each other in” is not true, despite what fallacies you want to create. Every product or service you consume, buy or interact with in Charlottesville has some “business person” behind it. Does that mean that they are all evil and only profit motivated? No, they all have a set of skills they use to bring products and services to Charlottesville. Some are self-taught and some have formal MBA educations. A lot of the places you frequent are Darden MBAs doing good things for Charlottesville and our community.

We have classes devoted to using business principals to solve the world’s problems. Ever heard of Husk Power Systems, Footprint Free, One2One? They are all companies founded by Darden MBAs with the idea to change the world. As one example of charity work, Darden students run an April building project for the Building Goodness Foundation that builds 10 to 15 houses every year for people in need in our community.

Darden creates better leaders because it gives you the tools to be a leader and apply skills and principals to everything from non-profits to the finance world. Whether or not you choose to use those skills to better the world and/or to accumulate wealth is your choice. I have yet to meet the archetypical evil MBA at Darden, and maybe if those accusers were to meet MBAs, they wouldn’t create images. Trying to blame the BOV’s actions on a Darden MBA education fails to holistically understand the situation. Darden doesn’t attract unethical people. That doesn’t excuse the BOV, but placing blame on Darden isn’t justified.

The irony of the whole situation is that higher education is broken and needs to rely on high profile alumni donations and other non-traditional academic type things to sustain itself, but that’s a conversation for another day.

So according to Ron Wilcox... Darden gets to take credit for its grads' good deeds, but their misdeeds are a reflection on the grads themselves only? Interesting.

For VA Girl.
it does not follow that because
" the Darden School was the FIRST business school in the country to make business ethics a required course for first year students." the students learned anything. The evidence that some of them did NOT has been presented to us all too forcibly during the last week. Perhaps Darden should offer a course in logic. On the subject of honour and nobility, and on knowing right from wrong, please see Mr. Gilliam's comment.

That makes to much sense Kyle. Anyone who makes money other than teaching one class a semester and having to 'drag' themselves in a few times a week is a robber baron.

Keep up man.

You don't need an MBA to start, manage or lead a business; you just need an MBA to run it into the ground.

MBAs are trained to extract value from other people's work and innovations. MBAs do not create value; they squeeze it out of companies that already have value. MBAs try to identify efficiencies that are predicated on the notion that people are tools to be used and disposed of. MBAs are educated to take financial instruments and turn them into puzzle boxes, then package then into tranches and resell to other companies, ad infinitum, to mitigate the risk of what was already a bad business deal (housing crisis, anyone?).

MBAs create nothing. They go into a business, identify weaknesses, alienate everyone associated with the business, wring out the last nickle of profit and sell whatever is left. They do this with slick fast-talk packaged with alpha-bitch personalities that charge forward without any other consideration than extracting value in anything they touch.

MBAs, in sum, are bipedal locusts.

Oops, sorry for the typos. I sent my assistant out to Whole Foods for some couscous and sushi.

R.I.P.: Some old Yoga maharashi somewhere

Kyle Redinger: "I am a little disturbed by the community’s accusations and assumptions about Darden."

And I am a little disturbed by the potential for injury in the typical Crossfit workout and the fact that a one-day seminar is the only qualification necessary to be a Crossfit instructor. Apparently a person can make good money running a no-frills workout facility out of a garage, but if that is what passes for your idea of "doing good things for Charlottesville and our community", I think I'll take your little speech with a grain of salt.

Not that it is partcularly relevant, but Paul Tudor Jones is not a Darden grad. He is a grad of the College. He did not go to business school. Sorry Liberalace.

@Da Troof - that is not at all what Ron is saying. The point is that everyone on this board is ONLY talking negatively about Darden and ignoring all the good that Darden grads do. Even worse, they are taking one mistake by a Darden grad and making sweeping generalizations about not only all Darden grads, but all MBAs. This line of logic is essentially akin to saying that all UVA students must be murders (or capable of) because George Huegley went to UVA and was a murderer. You can't logically make assumptions about entire institutions or groups of people based on the actions of one (or a few).

And now people are actually attacking Darden because they DO teach an ethics course? Would you rather them not?

Well said Kyle.

@liberalace. The article you are referring to is "Did Greenwich Tycoon Take Down a Major University President." http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/Did-Greenwich-tycoons-take-dow... is not in the title --- why? Because he is not a Darden alum. Get for facts straight liberalace.

@habi, could you help me with some research ? Was Paul Tudor Jones in the Commerce School with Carl Zeithaml as this implies :

McIntire School of Commerce Faculty

Robert I. Webb, B.B.A., M.B.A., Ph.D., Paul Tudor Jones II Research Professor. William J. Wilhelm, Jr., B.B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Carl P. Zeithaml, B.A., M.B.A., D.B.A., ...

No. Ptj graduated from a&s. The Ptj professor is a chair he endowed. He has never been on the faculty.

Classic synecdoche. Because Dragas went to Darden, doesn't mean this is all of Darden's fault. Dragas and Kington got rid of Sullivan because she didn't fall in line with their quest to get more money for the school by adding online education. That's it. Yes, there are some greedy people that have gone or go to Darden, but they were like that already. Now they're just more educated.

Hardly matters that Darden as an institution or Darden's faculty, students and alumni are involved in Theresa Sullivan's undoing, and the somewhat indifferent attitude of Helen and her BOV associates. Maybe it is a Darden thing, and maybe not. But I doubt that Darden, or something like Darden, was a necessary pre-condition for what occurred. Which is to say that Helen would have been predisposed to her evident megalomania whether she went to business school or divinity school. That she had support from Darden people is irrelevant; if there were no Darden, the outcome would have been the same. Owing to what I see on the Dragas web site, too many years of exposure to people who behave like Helen, and her very evident lack of character and depth, I think Helen acts the way she does simply because she enjoys it. She is the perfect figurehead for her board. She does what the other board members are afraid to do, which says little about the constituency she represents.

Noe of this will be explained, understood, or resolved by beating up on business schools. But darn, doesn't it FEEL good?

Paul Tudor Jones has endoed a chair there just like he's also endowed one in the Environmental Sciences department. He may guest lecture on trading or investment management style every once in a while but that really has nothing at all to do with the issues we're facing. I know he has participated in investment forums they've offered to the public in the past. He didn't attend Mcintire. He was an Econ major.

thanks habi

I don't know if this has been covered in posts already and if so, sorry for the redundancy but do the BOV members sign any docs about their responsibilities as BOV's and/or do they take/sign any kind of oath re:fulfilling their duties as a member of the BOV? Exactly what is the process for those becoming members of the BOV once they've been (or prior to for that matter) appointed (in addition to understood financial contributions).

An amusing Facebook site titled "Fire Helen Dragas" is attracting quite a following.

It seems for every article her PR team "plants" in the media, a dozen blogs and social media sites spring up to counteract the effects of any pro-Dragas PR.

Resistance is futile, Helen. Go away. Crawl back under one of your ramshackle condominums.

We are more tenacious than your wildest egomaniacal aspirations. We will overrun you.

And you will be defeated.

There's no longer an opportunity for you to resign with dignity. Now its simply a matter of eliminating any opportunity you will ever have to run for public office or show your face without attracting a crowd of angry people.

You are a laughingstock.

I like da crossfit games on ESPN

Crossfit's one size fits all mantra does major diservice to alot of people.

Don't forget Kyle also did "good things for Charlottesville and our community" by starting an online gossip site. See this Hook archives for more on its demise. I can't wait to see what Darden does with raw talent like that!

That page extends an invitation to "read some of our favorite posts." Classy!

French A Hole with Principal
Speculations about Goth Kids
Miller’s on a Downward Spiral?
Racist Rant
Snooty Bartenders
What happens when you spend time in Charlottesville?

I get that there is a substantial antibusiness sentiment in Charlottesville and elsewhere, so no amount of explanation from the "enemy" will receive thoughtful consideration from that crowd. What I find troubling is the belittling, anti-intellectual responses from many of the posters above. I hope to heaven those posters are not faculty at UVa.

If they are, the recent BoV blunder has brought to light additional serious issues at UVa. These boards are starting to resemble the corrosive, class warfare being fomented on the national stage. Maybe that divide was already infecting the school, but so far in my many interactions with UVa, such a sentiment has been hidden.

Go Hoos -- I haven't seen the oath, but I am aware that Visitors take one.

@TheDude: "that is not at all what Ron is saying."

That is certainly at least PART of what Ron is saying. Otherwise, how would YOU answer Pfft's questions:

"When the dust finally settles, will Darden's development office stop going after Kiernan, Kington, Dragas, et. al., for donations to the school?"

"Will the alumni affairs office stop ordering plaques and honoraria engraved with these people's names in order to commemmorate their achievements?"

I can't believe you are actually attacking another commenter for starting a gym and formerly running a local website. Ridiculous.

@ An Observer:

Perhaps you could learn to read. Nowhere is there expressed an "antibusiness" sentiment on this thread or elsewhere in Charlottesville. Most of the animosity you see on this issue has to do with the unassailable fact that a group of out-oftouch individuals took it upon themselves to orchestrate a coup against a popular univeristy leader.

These individuals circumvented the spirit of open meeting laws, dodged issues of quorum rules by meeting one-on-one, gave no warning to anyone with a vested interest in the issue -- and still remain silently definant in their refusal to justify any of their activities.

Put in the plainest terms possible, the University of Virginia is plagued by a group of elitists who through their every action are attempting to seize control of a public institution for their own purposes. And if they are not, then let them come forward to deny it and state their true objectives, which go against the wishes of the majority anyway.

How you come up with "antibusiness" is God's Own Private Mystery. You wouldn't happen to be a paid schill for that Dragas woman, now wouldja?

Pfft -- thanks for making my point for me.

@SRM: "I can't believe you are actually attacking another commenter for starting a gym and formerly running a local website. Ridiculous."

Correction. For opening a gym franchise that advocates arguably unhealthy (if not downright dangerous) workout practices, supervised by trainers with dubious credentials. And for acting as though we should all be thankful for it.

I don't give a rip about his website.

An Observer: You have no point to make. That's your problem.

"Pfft -- thanks for making my point for me."

So... paid schill then?

As someone who worked at Darden (over 10 years ago) I can tell you there are alum and students who do still have the "light in their eyes" and "ideals" of how the world should be and want to change things to benefit all - but they are few and far between.

As someone else pointed out, the training and education Darden gave Dragas was obviously used. Best yet, her high-end condos that have vinal flooring and laminate counter tops. (Sigh.)

And she is not the first graduate of Darden to be a villain. Way back when, there was one that was being sought by the FBI...

This said, there are all sorts of "institutions" which there are less than ethical beings, but at this time your alum, Dragas and those involved have blackened both of your eyes in the eyes of the world.

And for the record, I've known MBAs and PhDs who couldn't create a spreadsheet if their lives depended upon it.

Before the name calling gets too ridiculous, let's remember one thing: those involved made a point to suggest that being a Darden alum was enough of a credential to account for these actions. From Kiernan:

"And you should be comforted by the fact that both the Rector and Vice Rector, Helen Dragas and Mark Kington are Darden alums.

Trust me, Helen has things well in hand."

While it is unfair to indict all business-related people in this matter, it seems clear that there exists a perspective among those involved (and sadly, those observing) that somehow "business knows best." And more specifically, that a Darden education will cure all ills. Clearly, Dragas does not have things well in hand. Re: my previous post: how does this debacle demonstrate the mastery of anything? Perhaps a marketing/PR course would have been useful?

So, although I don't think there's anything particular about Darden or it's products that caused this, those behind it did/do seem to believe that as Darden products, they can do no wrong. This reflects badly on Darden, even if, as an institutions, it truly isn't blameworthy. Bad apples, and such. However and again, it'd be nice to see some folks at Darden distance themselves from this--and more than just a defense of business schools

"The first rule of Crossfit is, you do not talk about anything but Crossfit."

Like it or not top Darden leaders and top Darden donors have their fingerprints all over this - I think the Hook cover -Cabal Hall -is accurate and this is a class if cultures .

From RTD

Later that day, a forwarded email from Darden School of Business Dean Robert Bruner explaining Sullivan’s resignation brings this comment from Kington to Dragas about the financially independent Darden School:

“Bob Bruner is at the top of his game – we are so fortunate to have him. As you said today Darden is a near and visible template for much of what we seek.”


Sent from my iPhone

For the record; Kaine appointed Dragas to the BOV, big mistake and the present Governor appointed her as Rector, bigger mistake.

Meant - clash of cultures

She identified the problem, replacing the president was the solution. How does she do that? She flunks. BIG TIME. How did she get thru two years of case solutions with out some sensitivity training?

Wow. I have both an MBA and an ME.d and two degrees from UVA and I'm actually appalled at the missive presented. Not only is the defense of Darden not well written or argued, it really is devoid of that which the author doesn't know....that he doesn't know.I suggest those Dardenites hoping to quell the furor over the hubristic statement by Peter Kiernan about how the two BOV members have things under control because they hail from Darden (in so many words) might do well not to comment on events if you ONLY have a Darden MBA.

Remember, the reason Darden partners with Law, the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and Curry for joint degrees is because even the Darden administrators know that a Darden MBA does not confer knowledge and expertise in other subjects! If it did, none of these partnerships would have any value nor would they be necessary. To comment from only your Darden perspective without the value of studying higher education administration (or living it) is what Kington and Dragas did. Please don't continue to hurt Darden's reputation by continuing to comment in areas where you have no expertise, even in the ability to put forth a cogent argument for your limited perspectivec. It is only hurting Darden, and thus hurting the entire University. (If you don't believe me, read the volume of comments which I suspect will only get darker and more voluminous.) Don't make Darden's MBA become a slogan where a graduate becomes an expert on any subject simply because you stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

"Don't make Darden's MBA become a slogan where a graduate becomes an expert on any subject simply because you stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night."

Obviously, that expertise and training depends on whom the Darden grad is in bed with.

She identified the problem, replacing the president was the solution. How does she do that? She flunks. BIG TIME. How did she get thru two years of case solutions with out some sensitivity training?
DARDEN FLUNKS in this one incident and I hope no more.

Okay Pftt, you're starting to look like you have too much time on your hands. No job? Are you associated with the University? Did you go here? Are you just an out-of-towner that is interested in this subject? Are you a college student (UVA or otherwise) that just couldn't get an internship (do you need one)? Give us some perspective on why you're spending your entire afternoon commenting and responding on everyone's comments. I know I would be interested in your creds.

We could all learn from Terry Sullivan:

4:05 PM 6/21/12 http://ht.ly/bK7uq

Message from Teresa Sullivan:

To members of the University community:

Vigorous debate is one of the hallmarks of our university, and indeed of our nation. Freedom of speech is one of the great gifts ensured to us by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other Founders of the Republic.

Civility is also an important hallmark of our university. Our faculty and students distinguish themselves by their ability to make a reasoned argument without resort to crude, vulgar, or abusive language. I know that emotions are running high on Grounds, but there is no excuse for abusing anyone with whom you disagree. Let me say in particular that Carl Zeithaml has been an exemplary member of the University community, and he and his family in no way deserve abusive language. The Board of Visitors is made up of dedicated volunteers, and abusive behavior toward them or anyone else is destructive of our community's values.

The defacing of the Rotunda goes beyond free speech into vandalism. The Rotunda needs our careful attention to restore it, not to carry graffiti for any side in any debate.

Teresa A. Sullivan, President

"The fact is, the Darden alumni are a product of the Darden School. Dragas learned her Draconian management style from Darden faculty. Sure, her natural inclination toward underhandedness played a roll, but the tools she needed to engineer this mess were taught to her at Darden."

How Dragas has handled this situation from start to finish is antithetical to the teachings at Darden. As a current Darden cohort, I have been shocked by the lack of transparency, alignment, and perspective the Rector has displayed. The tools we are taught at Darden today are in NO way reflected in Dragas' behaviors.

There are bad apples in *every* bunch. One being in the Rector's seat. I have written several letters asking for her resignation, by the way. She has proven herself incapable of leadership.

Finally something superfluous I can grouse about. "Classic synecdoche"? Not exactly, though I see why you thought so.

And Dragas wanted to get rid of our classics department....

For those who've mention the importance of a business ethics course in an MBA program...

Taking an ethics course does not instill ethics, and attending a certain university does not instill honor. There may not be much hope if you're not an ethically sound or honorable person by the time you begin your undergrad studies, or graduate studies in your twenties or later. If you know otherwise, please teach me what constitutes ethical behavior?

I attended the Virginia Military Institute where "a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do" and I currently serve "honorably" in the United States Army. Who's to say if I'm honorable?

Of course not all Darden MBAs are moneygrubbing sociopaths. But anti-MBA sentiment is running strong in this country after the tech bubble and the housing bubble and the concerted efforts by lobbyists for MBAs to thwart any efforts to meaningfully regulate their behavior so that it doesn't happen again. Seems to me that many MBAs, especially those on Wall Street, live in their own self-congratulatory, self-reinforcing bubble. News flash: there is more to life than the bottom line.

This is almost as much of a self-serving diatribe as Rector Helen's BS, which she released this afternoon.

When Liberal Arts degree teachers start charities/companies and are the CEOs, they usually hire MBAs as CFOs and C.O.Os such as my step sister's son (Charles Best) did with donorschoose charity. He hired an MBA in both.


As a current Darden executive MBA student I feel compelled to offer one opinion.

From reading previous posts, I both respect and am encouraged to see a variety of opinions and insights, something I believe Thomas Jefferson would approve of based on my study of who he was and the impact he has had as a leader.

I don’t believe Professor Wilcox is trying to steer the current situation away from Darden, nor put a positive spin on what is occurring. More so I believe he offers a credible opinion based on his knowledge gained from being inside the institution. And I applaud him for sharing his views with others, and to go on record with his insights.

I don’t know the true motivations of Rector Dragas, and with the information available at this point to me, I know I would have pursued a different approach. As a leader in the military I have had to make difficult decisions. The highpoint being when I lead a command that grew to be close to 6,000 in Afghanistan, and those decisions were not about profit and loss, but about lives. Not everyone agreed with the decisions I made, some were unpopular – but every day to the best of my ability I made the best decisions I could and always gave opportunity from inputs from my organization and its leaders.

Having served my country for 26 years, and having the opportunity to earn two graduate degrees along the way – I chose Darden and UVA because of what they stand for and their core values. In just over a year, I was not wrong. The environment I am a part of challenges me, has helped me develop additional skills, and truly has been a learning lab of where my cohort and I can grow. Not once have I felt that we are being groomed to only think about the bottom line, or profit at all costs, or to pay lip service to ethics – no just the opposite. Of all the leadership training and development I have experienced in my military service, my experience at Darden is without peer. We are not being educated to become something specific, but we are increasing our knowledge to greater enable us for the future.

I believe the Darden community is a large family that includes past and present members. And at times family members make mistakes, or err in their decisions. It is at these moments that leaders step forward, and acknowledge those mistakes and we learn from them – and then move forward. What is happening at UVA today (different bodies and groups offering their opinions and support and being heard) – is exactly that, a family expressing its opinions and being heard.

I have heard that some, maybe many, maybe a few, were happy when Sullivan was asked to leave, even if they can agree the way it was done was sloppy .
That they believe Sullivan had serious problems and wasn't making changes fast enough. Could someone from Darden tell me specifically what changes were not occurring fast enough, what was Sullivan not doing that she should have been doing in the 2 years since she came.. We need to hear some specifics. Maybe we could agree if we knew what you think the problem was.

Dragas has put out her 10 points, but they are not specific and are quite abstract and what actions should Sullivan have been taking ?

Thank you for attempting to answer my question, I will listen carefully. I wish this essay had addressed the Sullivan question not business school in general. Perhaps someone could submit such an essay to the Hook.

I think Mr. Wilcox needs to focus less on defending Darden and try to figure out how they can learn from this mess and what Darden's responsibility is for the current sorry state of corporate ethics and behavior.

Darden Class of 1976

Tear the Darden down and sow salt over the grass!