No, this article is not a study of avian evolution, a treatise on bird reproduction or even a paper investigating turkey migratory patterns (my days of publishing actual academic research are over, much to the joy of the scientific community). I’m concerned with, or at least bemused by, the recent explosion of the on-campus turkey population from zero to at least two. Where, at risk of repeating myself, did they come from?
It is possible that the turkeys are here seeking sanctuary. As suspected political dissidents, threatened with execution and a horrific post-mortem ritual around November 23rd, they fled into the welcome arms of the HBS community much as those suffering persecution throughout history have sought protection at institutions of higher learning for centuries. (Or was that churches? The steeple bit of Baker Library may have confused them). Of course, they can still rely on the traditional liberal politics of academia coupled with the moral fiber demonstrated by eschewing a life of personal gain in order to further the knowledge and wellbeing of the entire human race. With that in mind, somebody may want to suggest that they nip over the river to KSG, where within a week they will have a nationwide press campaign devoted to their safety (as long as it provides some good photo-ops). Here they are only safe until someone works out the NPV of the purchase of a good stout ax and some gravy.
It is doubtful that, like many of us, the turkeys are here to find rich husbands, International-style squash courts or decent sushi. Perhaps they were attracted by an enviable tunnel system, hyper-efficient security guards and myriad Purell dispensers. It even is possible that they appreciate the fine architecture, manicured lawns and 24-hour access to Bloomberg terminals that we take for granted. On the other hand, given the ridiculously restrictive rules around serving alcohol on campus they are definitely not here for the parties. (Very few turkeys are teetotal. Fact). They are also unlikely to be attracted by the opportunities to do the same company valuation fifteen times with slightly different tax rates, get confused by the different shaped symbols on game theory tress and hear three different professors in one day name-drop about how close they are to Bill Gates. But I digress.
A more sinister explanation is that the turkeys are here as spies, gathering intelligence on our every move while pretending to peck at leftover quesadilla crusts (the cheese never goes quite to the edge, does it?). Of course, trying to do so whilst hanging out between Burden hall and the SFP laundry shows all the intelligence of a slightly stupid potato, as we all know that nothing interesting ever happens round there. Although maybe it is a good vantage point to check up on the late-night goings-on at the taxi stand, were a turkey to come equipped with night-vision binoculars.
But perhaps I am being too harsh on the turkeys. Perhaps, like the rest of us, they are merely here seeking knowledge, enlightenment and an entry-level job in consulting. I have not yet been able to confirm with the admissions office whether to turkeys are legitimate students, and have not yet found their classcards (Mr Turkey? T. U. Rkey? Kevin the Turkey?), but maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt. I can see how the essay on the turkey’s ‘greatest achievement’ could have been quite moving (surviving Thanksgiving) but I have my concerns about how thoroughly the rest of their applications was assessed. We know that it is technically possible to get into HBS without a college degree, but that turkey must have had one hell of a recommendation letter (probably from Bernard Matthews*). Alternatively, perhaps the turkeys are here as ambassadors for an as-yet-unrevealed further stage in the much-maligned ‘2+2 Program’. Not content with breaking down barriers of age and experience, the HBS faculty is keen to be seen as non-species-ist and is extending the hand of invitation to those potential talented applicants who have not yet met the required level of evolutionary development, but may at some point in future and therefore should not be excluded from the hallowed halls of Aldrich on that technicality. Unfortunately many of them have already accepted jobs at hedge funds.
More prosaically, there have been news stories about a plague of wild turkeys in various parts of Boston, although obviously the ones here at HBS are undoubtedly superior to the ones who choose to hang around on suburban street corners in Brookline. Perhaps they really just are uninvited pests, and even the might of the HBS administration machine has yet found a way to get rid of them. I am certain that Dean Light, with his well-known reputation for building strong relationships between HBS and other institutions, has done his best to find a willing zoo, farm or second-tier business school to take them off our hands, but I don’t think that it is as easy as that. I suspect that there is a dark side to the turkeys. After seeing them chase a tall, strapping and not entirely unmanly EC the full length of Spangler lawn during the cornhole tournament I can attest to their success at intimidation. Apparently, much like labor unions, they will back off if you ‘act aggressively’, but judging from the tales of intimidation and bullying from my fellow students, that is not as easy as it sounds. These birds fight back, so perhaps this Thanksgiving is a good time to try out that nut roast recipe.
*Apologies for an exclusively British joke. Please ask your section’s British representative to explain it to you. If they cannot do so, feel free to e-mail me their name and address and I will personally go round and strip them of their citizenship on the spot, as well as confiscating any Marmite or Burberry they may have.