Wharts and All: Blogging the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wharton School

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Wharton Concert Rules [Edit 1]

What are "concert rules," and why are they both reviled and ignored by students? During the Wharton Follies event, one skit in particular dealt with "concert rules" in a way that leads me to believe the Wharton students dislike these rules.

In the skit, a professor attempts to teach class to a bunch of unruly students. Some arrive late. Some yakk on their phones the entire time. Some fall asleep. One orders pizza (to class). One pees in a cup (kicking off a hilarious number called "Piss Cup"). The uptight accounting professor gets so cheesed off that he leaves the classroom in the hands of one of his students.

Though I've never seen a complete list of the concert rules, here are some of them, two of which I've invented just to keep you on your toes:

  • Students are to sit according to a seating chart and name tents are required.
  • Class starts and ends on time.
  • Rock out with your cock out whenever possible.
  • Late entry to class is not permitted.
  • All cell phones must be turned off.
  • Laptops are only permitted for taking notes for the class in session.
  • Students must bathe regularly.

In the classes I saw over the Winter Welcome, students don't follow these rules. Some students did not have name cards. Quite a few came to class late. One class started about a minute late. Why are students not following concert rules? Why do the rules exist?

The Internet chimes in with an answer:

The stakeholder survey shows student apathy. The symptoms: lower attendance, more tardiness, less class preparation. The school's response, including the imposition of "concert rules", increased weight of class participation and more grading of punctuality and attendance, essentially target the symptoms of the apathy, not the root causes. (Wharton Journal)

I don't know if it's just because this was the week after DIP or if this is how Wharton MBAs always behave, but I found the lack of classroom discipline discouraging. Is student apathy (where it exists) unique to Wharton or is it a symptom of a larger problem, specifically, that classroom performance generally has nothing to do with success finding a job and making lots of money (which is what everybody's really after)? Do students find it hard to respect their studies because the MBA degree has become a credential and not a tool for superior performance at a future employer? Are students even meaningfully rewarded for being studious? I'd guess not based on the low-energy classrooms I observed at the Winter Welcome Weekend.

Now I know it's not fair to judge based on just a few classroom experiences, but I also know that the Winter Welcome was essentially a sales weekend for people who were admitted to multiple schools in round one and who had not yet decided which of those schools they wanted to attend. These people will (and probably did) judge Wharton based on what they saw in the classrooms last week. If I were them, I would have come away disappointed with the classroom experience. (Note that I'm not saying the entire experience sucked, just that the classroom experience alone did not live up to my expectations.)

Yes, I know the mock class received rave reviews, but that wasn't everyday Wharton. That's a bunch of high-energy admits in a classroom with an amazing professor. So my question is this: Is what I saw last week the real deal or just an unrepresentative sample? Or am I finally coming down to earth after developing unrealistically high expectations? I won't know for sure until this fall.

I'll certainly be revisiting this topic as my Wharton experience evolves.

Edit 1: Fixed clumsy wording in first paragraph.


Anonymous Deadhedge said...


I graduated after concert rules had been in place and yeah, our classroom behavior can be deplorable. I guess it finally reached a pitch and the school responded. Now there are students who are quite serious about classroom performance. I was not one of them. My take was that there are a lot of things going on and we pick what we want to focus on. If that operations class really isn't doing it for me, well I like the ability to leave early for a lecture or club meeting that I am interested in. I tried taking an Advance Finance class to push myself, not a strength or interest, knowing that I didn't have to be 100% focused every class.

My take was that I appreciated the independence that Wharton gives us to decide how we want to use class time. I know that I'm paying a lot for those classes but I like the option to have a lot of freedom around how to spend my time, assuming of course that I wasn't disruptive to others.

So, honestly, there is a long history of bad classroom behavior because we are typically given so much freedom. It is a part of Wharton culture, although it sounds like it is changing


2/17/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Classy said...

I loved the two *rules* you made up! I mean, who would ever believe that you couldn't show up to class late or that you have to turn your cell off every day for class? ;-)

(Note: I noticed the same things you did during my fall visit, but that stuff didn't bother me. I came away with the impression that, "hey, the profs. know that you're there to get a job and they're more tolerant because of it. Amen!)

2/17/2005 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger iwhoElse said...

I had a similar impression of Coumbia Business School, and I had mentioned the same in one of my previous posts...

Columbia-class-visit []

Or may be is it bcoz we intend to go bck to learn skills and do something [Study for a change] which we missed while in Undergrad???

2/17/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger FMGirl said...

The pre- and post-DIP weeks were DEFINITELY not representative of the normal classroom, at least not in my cohort. People still come late sometimes and are occasionally unprepared, but the week after DIP week, this behavior was at a WHOLE 'nuther level. We're back to normal now.

2/18/2005 07:40:00 PM  
Blogger dean79 said...

Hmm, this is interesting. The picture is a little discouraging, but I think the libertine culture is preferable to the other extreme. We all growns up, right?

You gotta love bitter professors bitching about smartass students writing quips on class feedback forms though. (q: What is a quantitative analysis technique you have mastered in this course? A: What is technique?) Priceless...

2/21/2005 06:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am surprised that the welcome reception was held right after Hell Week. How could one be prepared for all classes and be on time right after going through recruiting nightmare???

2/21/2005 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger britchick said...

Like others, I've seen similar problems at other schools. I didn't notice much of it at Winter Welcome, but then I might also have had an unrepresntative experience. Will be interesting to see what we're like in terms of classroom behaviour this time next year.

2/22/2005 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Aileen said...

classroom behavior is part of a culture that is inherently difficult to change. i applaud the administration for attempting to do so with concert rules, but as you saw from follies, these rules amounted to little more than the butt of a few follies jokes.

the wharton community happens to value experiences outside the classroom sometimes more so than those inside the classroom, and there are pros & cons associated with that. i would also love to see a more rigorous classroom experience, but it takes alignment of a lot of interdependent activities before we'll see any results. for example, quality of teaching, professor attitude, the way you start preterm, and student body culture all factor into why students attend or not attend class. for example, my behavioral finance class has < 50% attendance rate, whereas in prof siggelkow's strategy class, nearly everyone is seated and ready to go when the bell rings.

2/24/2005 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger bskewl said...

Aileen --

Thanks for your insight. I'm actually a long-time reader of yours. It's a relief to hear that the abysmal classroom behavior bothered someone besides me.

I hope that the administration continues to hammer at this issue via "concert rules" and every other tool at their disposal. I want a quality learning environment, not a demotivating one!

Not that there isn't some very good learning going on. I witnessed several great classes during my Winter Weekend visit. It's just not ideal, and given the investment I'm about to make in Wharton (time, money, blood, sweat, tears, heart and soul), I'd like to see it improve.

2/24/2005 03:23:00 PM  
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