Everyone knows about the annual Harvard-Yale football game, but another, if slightly less popular, tradition is the annual debate between students at Yale’s School of Management and HBS. The night before the game, Luce Hall in New Haven was filled to overflowing as the two teams entered. The fourth annual Leadership and Ethics Forum debate began with music, painted banners, and cheers and jeers reflecting the long-standing rivalry between the schools.
Each side had a single hour to prepare their arguments for the topic: “Be it resolved that the CEOs of United States-based multinational corporations should develop and promote a code of international conduct for their businesses in order to prevent U.S. cultural imperialism abroad.”
The HBS team, evenly split between first and second years, men and women, and (among the second years) Septembers and Januaries, won the coin toss and opted to argue the Opposition position.
“Even if cultural imperialism is a problem,” Michelle Crames (NF) put forth in the opening Harvard presentation, “CEOs are ill-equipped to address it.” As multi-national corporations are the root cause of cultural imperialism, the leaders of those companies are not the right people to be finding the solution.
It would be, as Michael Echenberg (OI) further argued effectively in his rebuttal, “Like the fox guarding the hen house.”
Aparna Piramal (OD) conducted the cross-examination quietly and confidently, elucidating through reference to the U.K.’s reliance on common law that explicit codes, or Constitutions, are not always required or desired for governing behavior. Will Azeff (NK) ended with a spirited closing, drawing out several inconsistencies in the Affirmative position.
Yale School of Management, arguing the Affirmative position, started off with Melissa Tomlinson ’03, followed by Davin Bernstein ’02, John Dusza ’03, and Javier Aguello ’03.
The judges included HBS Professor William J. Poorvu, who received his BA from Yale and an MBA from HBS; Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Yale Professor and Associate Dean for Executive Education, who received his AB, MBA, and DBA from Harvard; and Joel Schiavone, entrepreneur and real estate developer (and recent candidate for Mayor of New Haven), who received his BA from Yale and an MBA from HBS.
Special thanks go to the organizers of the event, Arsheya Devitre (OH), Heba El-Gabaly (OH), Jason Lockwood (OF), and Mardie Oakes (OH) from HBS, and, from Yale, Davin Bernstein ’02, Deborah Cronen ’02, Beth Farrelly ’02, and MC Chad Troutwine ’02. Yale Professors Jonathan Koppell & Sandra Spataro served as faculty advisors.
As a parliamentary style debate, points were awarded according to strength of argument, style, and persuasiveness. In their closing remarks, the judges commented on the strengths and weaknesses of each of the debaters and their arguments. In the end, they said, the balance of their decision rested on style and persuasiveness rather than the strength of the arguments. For the fourth year in a row, the cup went to the hosting team.
The HBS team took their defeat in stride. “I think I speak for us all,” Azeff said, “when I say that despite the judges decision, HBS rocked the house! Next year, the debate will be at our house and we will return glory to Cambridge.”