Pulse: The Slacker’s End

Since 1994, MBA students at Penn’s Wharton School have been forbidden to tell fellow students, recruiters and potential employers their grades. Well, that’s not entirely true: They’ve abided by a “voluntary” agreement not to tell anyone their grades. The idea behind nondisclosure is that it frees up MBAs to learn, schmooze, and participate in hallowed traditions — such as the disco-themed “Wharton 54” party — without the stress of actually having to, you know, attend too much to the school part of business school.

Though Wharton MBAs aren’t alone in enjoying such an arrangement — the B-schools at Stanford and the University of Chicago also have nondisclosure policies — the Wharton faculty have never been big fans of the idea, which they blame for an often less-than-engaged classroom environment, and they recently decided to institute a new policy, which is scheduled to go into effect with the class of 2008. The new guidelines encourage students to disclose their grades to recruiters. In response, the Wharton Graduate Association actually toughened the existing policy, telling students to deny employers’ requests for transcripts until they’ve gotten job offers. In late February, the new WGA policy passed a student referendum by 90 percent.

Ed George, the statistics professor who chairs the MBA Executive Committee, isn’t ready to admit defeat. After all, he points out, it’s not like students have ever been legally bound not to disclose grades. “Students are allowed to distinguish themselves through extracurricular activities,” he says. “They should be allowed to distinguish themselves through their academic achievements as well.”