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Hazing Complaints Lead INSEAD to Cancel Welcome Week

For 35 years, Welcome Week has been a rite of passage for incoming students at INSEAD. Now, that tradition is coming under close scrutiny following official complaints filed with the Comité National Contre le Bizutage (CNCB), also known as the French National Committee Against Hazing.

With the CNCB initiating an investigation, INSEAD has announced that it is indefinitely calling off Welcome Week, which it describes as “a student-led set of activities that takes place over one-and-a-half days and introduces new students to the INSEAD culture and their senior classmates.”

Now under investigation is whether the process of introducing students to the “INSEAD culture” actually crosses the line into hazing.

While the details of the complaints filed with the CNCB have not been made public, the scandal has brought out stories from INSEAD alums who say they were subjected to humiliating experiences as part of Welcome Week.

Much of the discussion has focused on the tradition of recruiting new students to join fake athletic clubs.

In a Financial Times article, alums describe how those interested in joining these clubs were asked to participate in a 24-hour workout session or run “until you puke your guts up.” Ultimately, it is revealed that the clubs do not exist.

The controversy around Welcome Week has drawn support from INSEAD alumni who consider it a beloved school tradition.

Bloomberg columnist Leonid Bershidsky suggests that Welcome Week has valuable lessons to teach by taking new students outside of their comfort zones.

He argues that INSEAD students “should be capable of handling more than [what] Welcome Week throws at them” and that the European school should “resist the U.S. trend toward protecting students from the life that awaits them outside school walls.”

Still, it’s clear that not all students come away from INSEAD’s Welcome Week with such a rosy view of the experience.

Speaking to Poets & Quants, one former student who tried out for a fake club says: “I cried myself to sleep that night because I couldn’t comprehend why people would be so unkind to anyone.” She alleges she spoke to the administration, who suggested she could wait and start with the next MBA cohort.

If Welcome Week eventually returns to INSEAD, it seems likely that some changes will be made. Dean  Ilian Mihov’s statement says that “deception, pranks or any behavior that could be perceived as harassment in any form will not be tolerated.”

What long-term impact this scandal has on the school is yet to be seen. INSEAD remains one of the top business schools in the world – second only to Stanford Graduate School of Business according to FT’s MBA rankings.

And there’s certainly one challenging initiation right that isn’t going away: the school’s highly selective admissions process.

If you’re wondering how your profile lines up at INSEAD, contact us for a free assessment. We can’t tell you which clubs to apply for at Welcome Week, but we can give you feedback on how to communicate a personal brand that’s compelling to the adcom!