A question I’m often asked is what does HBS make of your book? The school newspaper,the Harbus, devoted a special issue to the book when it came out. The articles were overwhelmingly negative. Two professors complained to my publisher about their presentation in the book. One even requested publication be stopped. But their depictions stood. Where there were errors of fact, I corrected them.
But then there’s the curious case of the HBS spokesman, Jim Aisner. I’ve heard now from several reporters from news organizations both large and small, national and international, that Aisner disparages my book, my character and my motives in off-the-record conversations.
He says I’m the only person to have felt the way I did going through HBS. And worse, apparently. The first time I heard this, I thought, fair enough. I’ve made his job harder. The fifth or sixth time, it began to rankle.
Aisner refuses to go on the record, preferring to fire his barbs while cowering in the shadows.
The only direct communication I’ve had with Aisner was this email he sent on June 28th 2008 after seeing an uncorrected galley of the book, which somehow made it to HBS. Here’s what he said:
Hello. We had a chance to meet several years ago when you were an HBS student and wondering about writing some pieces for the FT. We met briefly in Cotting House. Perhaps you remember. On another front, I have had a chance to look at your book and althought I haven’t parsed every line (I was a classics major, too), I noticed that you refer to Mike Porter as an all-state basketball player. I know from his CV, which is available off the HBS home page, that he was an all-state (New Jersey) FOOTBALL and BASEBALL player, as well as an All-America golfer at Princeton. Also, since your first-year classroom was 100-something (I don’t have the book in front of me), wouldn’t that be on the first floor of Aldrich rather than the basement? Perhaps you’ve caught these sorts of things already in the fact-checking process before publication. This is my 25th year at HBS, so I know this kind of stuff.
That’s it. That’s all I ever heard from Aisner. Other than these frequent reports that he disparages me and my book in briefings with journalists. He also showed up at a talk I did at the Harvard Book Store in August of 2008, shortly after the book’s release. He ostentatiously took notes on a yellow legal pad and then scurried off before we had a chance to talk.
I scarcely expect an alumni award from HBS. But it would be nice if the school behaved a little more like a liberal-minded educational institution and less like a paranoid corporation. Aisner, come out from under your rock!