The 1st Suspension

09/07/2019 forceforgood

The 1st Suspension

The student – still dissatisfied with the way his complaint about Mr Dominé’s email had been ignored – was shocked to find out that, not only was Mr Dominé not going to face any repercussions, he would be delivering a one-hour forum on leadership. He wrote an email to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, copying in all EMBA students, clearly stating that he was not going to accept the excuse of a cultural misunderstanding to explain away Mr Dominé’s email. The student asked whether it could be guaranteed that a force majeure would not prevent Mr Dominé from delivering the forum. The student attended his class as normal, only to be escorted hours later from the campus to the hotel, also owned by INSEAD®, by security, who followed him over the course of the evening.

Force for Good – Case Study 2019/11 [DOWNLOAD]


The Dean’s “Welcome”

The student knew that the Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov was upset about the investigation of the non-degree executive education collaboration programme with HOUYI. At the same time, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, who is responsible for the XXEMBA degree programme, appeared to have already started to prepare reprisals. Nevertheless, the student still travelled as planned to the Fontainebleau campus of INSEAD® for the 9th module. The student had already booked the Hôtel Clos St Merry, which he later discovered is owned by INSEAD®.

On the afternoon on July 7th, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer hosted a “Dean’s Welcome” session for all EMBA students who were on the campus. During the session, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer informed them that Mr. Vincent Dominé would host a one-hour leadership forum during the launch on July 11th, just before Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov’s speech.

The student did not agree with the dean’s characterization of Mr Dominé’s reference to a “death in the family” as simply “culturally insensitive”. Moreover, the student was not satisfied with the way the dean evaded addressing the real issues. No one answered the question of whether the school should tolerate the behaviour of Mr Dominé. However, allowing Mr Dominé to host a leadership forum made it seem that the school had fully endorsed his behaviour. More importantly, the student wanted to send a clear message to the Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov and Dean Prof. Urs Peyer that trying to punish the student will not silence him regarding the HOUYI investigation.

Questioning Mr Vincent Dominé’s suitability to host a leadership forum

In the early hours of July 9th the student sent an email to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer copying all EMBA students in the French campus at that time.

Dear Dean Peyer,

If Mr Dominé will give a lecture as you mentioned in your opening speech of elective module. Nobody can guarantee that a “force majeure” might not happen with Mr Dominé ‘s family.

I repeat it again and last time, using “death in the family” to explain “force majeure” is not a cultural misunderstanding!!!

Do I make myself clear? Ignore the problem will not solve the problem. Trying to solve me will create more problems!!!

Leadership Development Practice Director???? death in the family???? My absent request was send on 22nd April, Mr Dominé replied one day before my absent. It says everything about his leadership.

@Mr Dominé, Life is not about making trade-offs. Life is about never mess with the wrong person!”

The email was to “Dear Dean Peyer” and included the statement: “Trying to solve me will create more problems!” The email was part of an ongoing conversation with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer going back to July 4th. The need to question Mr Dominé’s suitability to teach others about leadership skills must have been clear to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, if not to all the other recipients. Involving other students was done with the intention of exposing the issue about Mr Dominé. In addition, making the matter more widely known was a protection mechanism on the student’s part to shield him from any further attempts of intimidation from Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov and Dean Prof. Urs Peyer.

A student replied to the email on July 9th at approximately 7:30 a.m.:

“it looks like you tried to write off your frustration and accidentally pressed send. While in general writing off/down your (negative) feelings is a good way to deal with them, the key part is NOT to send them though. And also don’t include hundreds of fellow co-students as some people might read this as a threat to the faculty and that’s nothing to joke about.”

 Another student replied around 8:00 a.m..

 “Well replied xxxx. Simple solution here will be to not give access to students to group lists.”

The student was glad to see that only two students responded but the majority of the EMBA students kept calm and waited to get more details rather than make a hasty conclusion and provide any reactionary comments.

The Student is escorted from the campus by security

The student went to the campus and none of the security guards were within his sight. Nobody even tried to stop him. He brushed past the Dean of non-degree programmes, Prof. Ben M. Bensaou, at the entry of the main building.

During the elective course Mergers and Acquisitions from 8:30 a.m., the student’s behaviour didn’t indicate any kind of aggression or threat to staff or peers. The student asked and answered questions during the course as usual, even winning a prize from his professor in a group exercise.

It should be noted that there are cameras in the classroom, the corridor and hall. Any unusual behaviour could be monitored.

None of the classmates in the course complained to the professor or staff that they felt threated or uncomfortable by the student’s presence. During the break, a GEMBA participant approached the student after recognising his name plate on the table, gave him a thumbs up and said: “You sent the email. Well Done! Vincent is an a****le.” The GEMBA student then shared his personal experiences with the Leadership Development programme and pointed out that, based on his interactions with Mr Dominé, Mr Dominé’s behaviour could be characterized as racist.

Around 11:00 a.m., hours after the email was sent, the student realised that his INSEAD® email account was blocked. The above two replies were the only replies from 174 delivery confirmations. The student sent an email to the programme coordinator, an INSEAD® staff member, using his Google mail account. He immediately received a message from the mail server of INSEAD® showed that his private email account was also blocked by INSEAD®, thus leaving him with no means to communicate the appalling way he was being treated and reveal further details of the HOUYI investigation.

In the next break, the student went to the reception and asked to talk to his programme coordinator. He saw four security guards in the hall. They seemed to be searching for someone.

The programme coordinator came to the reception and told the student the school had reported the email to the local police department in the morning. She mentioned that the local police department had identified the email as a threat. In that moment, the student realised he was being approached by a security guard, who immediately made physical contact – tugging on his arm. The student politely asked to be able to finish his conversation with the programme coordinator, who motioned to the security guard to stop his attempts to physically escort the student from the campus. The student asked the programme coordinator why, if the French police were concerned that he might have broken French law, they were not present there to deal with him directly, since INSEAD’s private security is clearly not an arm of the French government. To this date, the student has not seen the French police in connection with this matter or received any verbal or written communication from them.

The security guard asked the student to collect his personal belongings and leave the campus immediately. The student was escorted back to the classroom by three security guards and the programme coordinator. He packed his belongings and thanked the programme coordinator for her support during the programme.

There was no verbal or physical resistance from the student. He walked to the entry with the programme coordinator followed by security guards. With tears in her eyes, the programme coordinator asked the student to keep talking to the school.

The student is monitored by INSEAD® security off-campus

Upon arrival in his hotel room, the student began drafting an email to inform the deans of the partner university and his classmates that he had just been ejected by security as well as summarising the content of his investigation of the INSEAD-HOUYI partnership.

During the lunch break, one of his classmates brought a sandwich and juice to the student in the hotel. The classmate saw the draft of email and asked him to calm down. The student said, “The school will try everything in their power to use this opportunity to silence me and isolate me. Believe me, their suspension letter is on the way. If I disclose the HOUYI investigation after I received the suspension letter, the whole thing will change. The school will make me out to be a crazy ‘terrorist’ who is trying to get revenge. So, I have to send it ASAP before the email account of partner university will be blocked as well.”

On July 9th 2019 15:04 an email from the student was sent to his classmates and deans of both INSEAD® and partner university, using his email account with the latter.

During a conversation with INSEAD’s security guard in the hotel lobby, the student was informed by him that INSEAD® had instructed him to monitor the student. The hotel manager told the student that his booking is cancelled and asked him to leave the hotel, which is owned by INSEAD®, immediately. The student told the hotel manager that he was not physically fit to drive 8 hours back home and refused to leave the hotel immediately. The student then informed his classmates of this via email.

The 1st Suspension Letter

The student was constantly followed by an INSEAD® security guard for the entire afternoon and evening. At 7:00 pm, the security director of INSEAD® delivered a letter to the student from Prof. Urs Peyer in the hotel lobby. It was, predictably, a suspension letter. (see Appendix 14: First Suspension Letter – July 9th, 2019)

INSEAD’s Participant Guidelines and Code of Conduct, referred to in the suspension letter, clearly outline that the deans of both institutions must decide whether to suspend or expel a student from the XXEMBA programme “after appropriate warning.” (see Appendix 12: XXEMBA 2020 – Participant Guidelines and Code of Conduct – Page 9) The initial suspension letter was signed by only Dean Prof. Urs Peyer with no reference to the partner university.

At 18:32 July 9th, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent an email to all EMBA students at the French campus, which was forwarded to the student by his classmate on July 10th.

TOPIC: FOLLOW UP TO STUDENT MESSAGE

CC: DOMINE VINCENT; MIHOV ILIAN

“Dear All,

We understand there is concern regarding the message distributed early this morning one of the participants. Rest assured we are taking the matter very seriously. As of this moment the participant has been suspended from the programme.

Please know we are here to support all members of the community.

Do reach out to me if you wish to discuss.

Kind regards,

Urs

Dean of Degree programmes

Associate Professor of Finance”

The student’s classmates did not perceive him as a threat, since they actively sought him out to socialize before his departure. Spurning the inedible food (microwave meals still cold inside) served to them at Hôtel Clos St Merry owned by INSEAD®, they went to the roof terrace of a student’s accommodation to drink wine.

By the end of the evening, many of the student’s classmates had wished him farewell, mostly in person but some by phone. Over the course of the evening, he also had the opportunity to hear from students of other programmes about their negative experiences with Mr Dominé.

On July 15th, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent an email to XXEMBA 2020 students. The below email was forwarded to the student by his classmate on July 15th.

TOPIC: UPDATE FOR XXEMBA20 PARTICIPANTS

CC: BRESMAN ANNE; LUO XIAOWEI ROSE

“Dear participants,

The INSEAD® team has exchanged with {NAME OF THE PARTNER UNIVERSITY}and your class reps last week and we would like to send a brief update on the suspension of {NAME OF THE STUDENT}.

Our objective is to follow a fair process taking into account both our participants safety as well as {NAME OF THE STUDENT}’s view.

Thank you to many of you who have shared their perspectives, concerns, and question with the reps and us. We will follow up when we can share more respecting the privacy of the process.

Please rest assured that we have both the participants, faculty, and staff, as well as the programme in mind in this process but we are ultimately guided by our INSEAD® values and the code of conduct.

With best wishes,

Urs

Dean of Degree programmes

Associate Professor of Finance”

On July 15th, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent another email to XXEMBA 2020 students. The below email was forwarded to the student by his classmate as well.

TOPIC: CHANGE TO MONDAY LUNCH SESSION

CC: BRESMAN ANNE; DEMELUN CLAIRE

“Dear participants,

We had originally planned a panel with Alumni organized by Vincent for Monday lunch time.

The email sent by {NAME OF THE STUDENT} last Monday has affected us all and most so Vincent. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to manage this situation and preparing the LDP panel such that the session guarantees useful insights for you.

We have thus decided to cancel the panel.

I would like to offer the following meetings with me instead:

– Meeting with XXEMBA20 from 12.45-13.10

– Meeting with XEMBA19 from 13.15-13.40

for a Q&A with updates on the programme for future generations. This will also provide us with a bit more time to discuss rankings specifically.

Location: Amphi A.

Best,

Urs”

Following the XXEMBA20 meeting referred to above, one participant sent the following message to the student: “Today Dean Pyer gave a lunch presentation but most of us felt it was a waste of time and totally insincere.”

[FIGURE-16] WECHAT CHATTING HISTORY WITH CLASSMATE [SOURCE: WECHAT]

During the elective module in France, the student’s classmates had the opportunity to talk to some professors. They also wondered about this five-year contract with Huoyi and mentioned that this kind of collaboration usually starts with two to three years. In addition, his peers also informed the student that Mrs Dora Ng (Director, Corporate Partnerships, Executive Education) “left” INSEAD®.


Questions & Answers

INSEAD® claims that your behaviour was a threat to one of its faculty members. Threatening someone or their family is a criminal action, so why didn’t the police get involved?

I can only speculate that the police did not consider the evidence provided to them by INSEAD® to be a credible threat and so decided not to take any action. In any case, I did not communicate with the French police in any way about this matter. I have never been in contact with the French police at all.

Do you consider your email to have been a threat to a faculty member?

No, not at all. Or, in any case, it was as much of a threat to him as his email had been to me. I can’t accept INSEAD’s eagerness to write off Mr Dominé’s response to my absence request, in which he threatened to withhold my degree and used the example of a “death in the family” as a reason to miss class, as a cultural misunderstanding. Why couldn’t my email also be written off as a cultural misunderstanding too? Why was I being held to a higher standard than a faculty member?

Some might argue that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer’s action was appropriate to respond to anything that might be perceived as a threat to a member of staff. Do you think that he really believed your email was such a threat?

No, not at all. On the one hand, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer intentionally ignored the context of the email, and, on the other hand, he very deliberately exaggerated its implications and rushed to pass a sentence without any kind of “appropriate warning” described in the Participant Guidelines and Code of Conduct.

What made Dean Prof. Urs Peyer define the email as a threat to the school’s security? Because of the use of red font? I had already used red font to highlight the phrase “Death in the family” in every email sent to the school between May 8th and May 19th. Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov, Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo and Dean Prof. Urs Peyer all replied and none of them complained about the font in red.

It is clear to me that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer seized the opportunity before him to punish me as harshly as possible and remove the “troublemaker” investigating the HOUYI partnership, asking inconvenient questions and demanding that faculty members be held to account.

What was your reaction to the student who responded to your mass email?

 Here is the text of the reply for reference:

“it looks like you tried to write off your frustration and accidentally pressed send. While in general writing off/down your (negative) feelings is a good way to deal with them, the key part is NOT to send them though. And also don’t include hundreds of fellow co-students as some people might read this as a threat to the faculty and that’s nothing to joke about.”

I think that student was perfectly correct in his assessment of my frame of mind as frustrated and with a lot of negative feelings. He mentions that some people “might read this as a threat to the faculty”. Even without knowing any background, that student was still not willing to definitively characterize my email as a threat. Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, knowing as he did all the background and details, should not have interpreted my email as a threat. Nevertheless, he chose to exaggerate the measured response of “might read this as a threat to the faculty” to “threat of our security at INSEAD®” and “your actions and behaviour present a danger to the normal operations of the school”. The word “actions” is a plural. What are the actions? An email which questioned the leadership skills of Dean Prof. Urs Peyer’s subordinate and himself!

One could argue that INSEAD® was in an impossible position. To suspend you could look like a punitive overreaction prompted by your HOUYI investigation. However, to not suspend you could leave them open to an accusation from Mr Dominé that the school failed to protect him from a threat made to him by a student. Essentially Dean Prof. Urs Peyer was “damned if he did and damned if he didn’t”. What would you have done in Dean Prof. Urs Peyer’s position?

I wouldn’t have allowed the communication and relationship breakdown to reach such a low point in the first place. I appreciate that my email put Dean Prof. Urs Peyer in a tricky situation, but he could have easily taken action earlier on to address my complaint about Mr Dominé. The trust had been broken, and the lack of a formal complaints procedure, trying to intimidate the investigation in non-degree partnership, meant that I felt compelled to send that email on July 9th.

The next question relates to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer’s email sent to the EMBA students on 9th July.

Topic: Follow Up to Student Message

CC: DOMINE Vincent; MIHOV Ilian

“Dear All,

We understand there is concern regarding the message distributed early this morning one of the participants. Rest assured we are taking the matter very seriously. As of this moment the participant has been suspended from the programme.

Please know we are here to support all members of the community.

Do reach out to me if you wish to discuss.

Kind regards,

Urs

Dean of Degree programmes

Associate Professor of Finance”

What was your reaction to reading Dean Prof. Urs Peyer’s email sent on July 9th to your peers, copying Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov and Mr Dominé?

Why is the reason for the suspension not mentioned in this email to all students? Is it because they would be unlikely to agree with the reasons given, namely that I am a “threat to our security at INSEAD®” , that my “actions and behaviour present a danger to the normal operations of the school”? If I had been a threat to my peers and teachers, then the school should inform the students that the school is now out of danger. Mr Dominé was copied in the email, which was clearly sent only to support him. He is a stakeholder, but is the process fair? No.

What do you think Dean Prof. Urs Peyer meant by the “privacy of the process”? Whose privacy did he mean?

I certainly don’t believe it was referring to any consideration for my privacy – what did I have to hide? Did he not wish to reveal the details of your complaint about Mr Dominé or those of other students? Could it also be too send a message to students that “any complaints about me will be kept confidential”?

Were you anxious the night prior to your departure from France?

No. I slept soundly, comforted by a clean conscience and my peers’ support, knowing that I would be woken the following morning by a complementary wake up service arranged by a Dean of the world’s leading business school.

What was your reaction to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer’s two emails to your classmates on July 15th?

I left France on July 10th. The lunch panel was organized for July 15th. I simply don’t believe that dealing with my case was the genuine reason for cancelling that panel. It was clearly done just to shield Mr Dominé from being confronted by other students about his appalling response to my absence request and the many other complaints that students had about him. I was informed by one of my peers that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer had a separate meeting with class representatives, during which he asked them to collect feedback about my behaviour. During his meeting with all of my classmates, he encouraged them to share their feedback with the class representatives, one of whom immediately expressed their desire not to receive such feedback, but instead asked the classmates to pass any comments directly to the school administration.

Furthermore, I am astonished that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer actually put in writing that my case would be discussed – in the same meeting – together with the Financial Times’ rankings. This is something that shouldn’t be discussed with students at all. My classmates informed me that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer explicitly requested they give positive responses to the survey that would be sent to them in three years’ time.

Were you surprised to hear that Dora Ng had since left INSEAD®?

Not at all. The timing of it made it seem to me that her lack of professionalism in failing to vet HOUYI properly before INSEAD’s contract with it was signed had been exposed and led to her resignation/sacking.

Force for Good – Case Study 2019/11 [DOWNLOAD]