In this series of Letter to a Young RC, Alejandro shares his thoughts on the true meaning and purpose behind the section experience at HBS.
Two Fridays ago you had the chance to meet your old section. Several of you told me it was a great way to break the ice. Indeed, I think that a year ago it was the first time anybody ever heard someone from Section B laugh.
The section experience could provide an army of anthropologists a lifetime of employment, but I will spare you the suspense and hypothesize that its purpose is to enforce diversity. People’s natural tendency is to float towards others with whom they have something in common, so organizing our social lives around a section teeming with diversity is totally unnatural. Look around the RC classroom where every single person has a unique background and singular perspective-would you honestly have associated with all of these folks given the freedom to choose your own classmates? I tried to imagine what life would be like without sections, and my thought experiment concluded that student clubs would replace sections as the primary social organizing vehicles.
So what would HBS look like if we mostly stayed within our clubs? I’m happy to say that it would still be rather diverse from a purely demographic perspective. Over 60% of clubs have a professional or leisurely mission, so they do not have any salient divisions based on religion, race/ethnicity, geography, gender, or political affiliation. Nevertheless, how many clubs could one possibly join? My budget is stretched to the limit of seven clubs I chose to join last year, and my schedule acts as the real bottleneck since I do not have time to participate in at least three-fourths of my clubs’ activities. Furthermore, even though professional and leisurely groups ostensibly cross demographic boundaries, their very nature minimizes the degrees of separation in opinions, perspectives, and experiences.
I could not be happier with my section. Even though what initially attracts people to each other are superficial characteristics, what keeps them together is shared experience. Spending most of your time in the RC with your section will bond you to a group of people that otherwise you would never have met. And although at first it seems like you may be the unwitting stars of a demented reality TV show (have you seen the cameras in your classrooms?), your shared experience will transcend all boundaries and give you the chance to make friends with people you never thought you would.