Are MBAs Degrees or Titles?

Recently Stanford made the decision to strip (former) graduate Mathew Martoma’s MBA degree. There are some surrounding issues (Martoma being convicted of insider trading), but the school has insisted that isn’t the reason for removing the degree. Rather, Stanford is claiming, that it was because Martoma didn’t disclose that he was expelled from Harvard Law School a couple years earlier.

Setting aside the fact that there is a high likelihood that the conviction is playing a part in Standford’s decision, to me it is interesting what this decision could subtly be saying about how the school regards its MBA program. It is a status indicator, over an academic achievement.

If you read the article that I linked it goes into detail the situation surrounding Martoma’s being booted from Harvard. In summary it is because he doctored his grades and sent them out to federal judges in application for clerk positions.

This is where things get a little more interesting.

After that he changed his name and two years later applied to Stanford’s MBA program. Since there isn’t any information to the contrary, the assumption has to be made that he was admitted based on the merit of his application and undergraduate marks. This is how all MBA applicants are evaluated.

Then, because nothing is said to the contrary, Martoma must have completed his MBA coursework to a satisfactory level and graduated. For all intents and purposes he earned his MBA the same way as, I assume, everyone else in his class.

The fact that he didn’t disclose his time at Harvard was definitely not the right thing to do, but is it reason for the stripping of a degree? Did he not gain admission through the proper channels and complete the required academic work?

Stanford’s actions may be a subtle hint to how it views the MBA program: as a prestigious association, rather than a “pure” degree. Stripping a man of what he worked, and paid, to achieve based on a poor decision that isn’t directly related to the school itself doesn’t sit well for some reason.

I’m obviously coming from this as an outsider and non-MBA. I’m also taking a bit of a devil’s advocate position.

It would be interesting to hear from some MBAs out there. I definitely don’t diminish the hard work that higher education is, but the actions of Stanford Business School raises some questions. What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Are MBAs Degrees or Titles?

  1. Ian

    I would argue that he didn’t gain admission through the proper channels, as I have to assume that somewhere in the application he lied to hide the fact that he attended and was expelled from a law school. I assume a standard application must include a section requesting information on all prior academic engagements, and if you have been booted from somewhere.

    1. Kevin Parsons Post author

      The only reason I would question that is that Stanford is being tight-lipped. If they had something that was more detailed, then I believe they would be making it public.

  2. Pingback: Education Needs an Overhaul | Kevin Parsons

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