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Rejected HBS Applicant Responds to Administrative Move

The following is a response from one of the 199 applicants who was denied further consideration for admission due to involvement in the hacking incident:

I am one of the unfortunate “hackers”. Luckily I got the “dinged” letter otherwise I would be really furious. Instead, I am remorseful. As you might imagine, I have been thinking about this quite a bit for the last few days. What scares me about my own behavior is how impulsively I acted. When I accessed the link, it never once occurred to me that what I was doing was unethical. Not until I told my wife what I had discovered and she acted surprised did I realize I might have just made a mistake.

Now, many of you are probably thinking that since it never occurred to me that what I was doing was wrong, I simply lack ethics or morals. With the risk of sounding self-righteous, I would assert that I am highly ethical and have extremely strong integrity. I’m one of those guys that if my dinner cost $25.73, I only submit $25.00 for reimbursement, not because I’ll get caught for submitting $0.73 extra for my meal, but because I think it is dishonest to expense more than I am allowed (obviously this is an entire other topic that I only mention to illustrate a point.) Nonetheless, given the fact that I consider myself an honest person, I have put my own actions and the actions of HBS under the microscope and have come to several conclusions.

I believe I acted impulsively and questionably unethically. However, I feel the statement that I lack the ability to be a leader is not only insulting, but outlandish. Everyone makes mistakes; even the best leaders do. What separates the best leaders from everyone else is their ability to admit their mistakes and learn from them. By making a blanket statement that all the hackers are unethical and won’t make good leaders is absurd. What is worse, acting impulsively in a situation where no harm is done to anyone or, having a week to mull over the situation and then acting rashly and without compassion? I have spent hundreds of hours working on business school applications and my curiosity got the best of me for five minutes. HBS has had days to think over this situation and in the end they have decided to completely disregard the thousands of hours of effort and dedication of 119 people just to prove a point and save face (they were the only school that had already posted admissions decisions.) Their decision to outright deny everyone who “hacked” is an over reaction and is not commensurate with the alleged infraction.

The severity of a punishment should be inline with the degree of the mistake. In this case, some applicants were curious and very easily found out their decision, therefore I think it would be more fair to simply note in their applications that these applicants are eager and curious. If the “hacking” had required a much more involved process, I believe the majority of the 119 would have realized that they shouldn’t follow the procedure. If you look at the law, criminals are punished in accordance with the crime. Petty thieves get misdemeanors and serial killers get the death penalty. In this case, HBS has sentenced 119 people with the death penalty for stealing penny candy.

I would also like to offer my admiration to those that saw the “link” and chose not go through it. I think it is impressive that despite your curiosity, you were not influenced by your emotions and did not look at your decision. I hope this experience helps me to learn how to not act impulsively but also not act with complete disregard for the benign intent of others.

To those of you who never saw the instructions to access the link on Business Week Online while the link was still up, I would ask that you reserve judgment. Although you may say you would have not accessed the link if you saw it, I am living proof that many of you would have done it, had you seen the link. I would love to know what percent of people who saw the link tried to use it. From what I understand, the link was only posted for 9 hours, most of which were during the middle of the night. During that time, it’s hard for me to believe that more than a few hundred people saw the link. Obviously 119 successfully accessed the link, but I’m sure there were quite a few others that tried it but were unsuccessful. I would guess more than half those that saw it (and who had actually applied to HBS in R2) tried to see their decision. I just find it hard to believe that if well more than half of a group of people (according to my estimation) act on curiosity without malicious intent, that every one of them lacks good judgment and the ability to lead.

I apologize for my long windedness; I just wanted people out there to have a better understand of the situation from a different perspective.

To my fellow 118 hackers, I wish you the best of luck. I already accepted to my #2 choice (which has quickly become my #1 choice) and hope the best for all of you.

March 14, 2005
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