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Editorial: Just a Click Away

It’s scary the number of life-altering decisions that are now communicated to us over the web. Ok, maybe life-altering is a bit too strong of a descriptor, but the trend is definitely heading that way. I say it’s a trend that we’ve got to stop.

For those of you who are like me (that would be anyone who was not 100% certain of becoming a Baker Scholar from the first day of Foundations), last week’s grade retrieval is a perfect example. At 2:15 pm, I clicked. The confounding hourglass appeared. My heart beat a little faster; my diaphragm tightened. I took a deep breath, and another, and then… ERROR: Unable to access page at this time.

Error messages aside, the process of retrieving such information from the web remains a trying and arduous ordeal. Think back to when you were instructed to “click here for your online admissions decision”. It used to be that you were given a strong leading indicator of your prospects: the envelope size. You could rejoice upon receiving a thick 8 1/2 by 11 package and tear into it without hesitation, assured that it would contain a welcoming letter beginning with “Congratulations!” And if the envelope was thin, you could steel your nerves, tell yourself you didn’t really want to go to that school anyways, and secretly pray for the wait-list (again, my apologies to the Baker Scholar-types who have no idea what I’m talking about).

Alas, today’s web delivery robs us of this chance to prepare and compose ourselves. Instead, students are left without any clues for several interminable moments. Exposed and vulnerable, we are forced into a quandary, wavering between hope and despair until the results finally appear.

With Murphy’s Law working as it does, this anxiety is only compounded further by the types of errors that occurred last week. In my case, it wasn’t until after a dozen attempts and nearly half as many E.L.Fudge striped cookies that I finally retrieved my grades successfully. I would have felt no different about the process had grades been mailed in a trick envelope that took 30 minutes to open.

Where is all this clicking taking us? Are the efficiency gains worth the sacrifices to our mental (and physical) well-being?

Clearly, if left unchecked, this dangerous practice could become even more widespread. Perhaps companies will deem it more efficient to handle HR in this manner – saving the price of a phone call or the trouble of printing an official rejection on letterhead. Our professional fates will be sealed by the mere click of a mouse. Or imagine if your doctor were to adopt this practice – click here for the results of your

mammogram/colonoscopy. Oh, you have cancer? Click here for more information.

Of course, if you’re reading this, chances are that at least one recent mouse click produced positive results. For those who were disappointed or disheartened by first term grades, take a moment to remember that time when your click was rewarded with “Congratulations! The Harvard Business School is delighted…” After all, you could be somewhere else where grades are actually disclosed.

Anne Ristau
Editor In Chief

January 20, 2004
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