Stanford business school students are arguably the future business leaders of America. Which is why it's awfully scary to take a peek at what they think is funny. The song uses banal biz-speak as sexual innuendo, which is then acted out in the video by students proudly sporting cardinal-red Stanford gear. Unfortunately, the scenes are all too familiar to anyone who has experienced sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
Check out this video from a group of current graduate students -- if it's still up.
[the video was originally posted here but has since been removed]
One wishes these students, some of the brightest business students in the world, would use their platform to promote principals of egalitarian leadership. Instead they've taken it to the lowest common denominator and revel in the potty humor. Consider the following lines: "I want you to know you've got freak cash flow in my spread sheets," and "Time for a 1:1, babe let's have some fun, I think you're needing an all-hands meeting."
This video promotes gender stereotypes and sexual harassment -- issues one would hope Stanford students and faculty would be actively working against in the classroom. While the video was published last month on Valentine's Day (how sweet!), it caught a second round of promotion on Twitter yesterday for International Women's Day. Sarah Lacy, founder of Pando, called it the "video version of Travis [Kalanick]'s boober joke," which is to say it was gross, unfunny and unbefitting an individual in corporate leadership position.
Michele Dauber, a law professor and sociologist at Stanford, first called attention to the video on Twitter. Dauber heads "Recall Persky" -- a campaign to recall the judge from the Brock Allen Turner trial. Remember him? Turner is the former Stanford student who got six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Yes, it was all too recently that the university was in the headlines for the easy out one of its students got in a rape case. You'd think students would be extra sensitive to the image they present, but no.
Dauber tweeted the video with the screenshot below and the following comment: "The problem is that this is what a hostile environment looks like. So it's not funny -- it's degrading to women and diminishes all women in biz."
Funnily enough, the screenshot Dauber shared actually got her account flagged for offensive content on Twitter, leading her to tweet: "I guess twitter has laid to rest the question of whether this is objectively offensive." If an algorithm can tell this is in poor taste, why can't a group of elite business students?
While the students were most assuredly "just trying to be funny" and "didn't mean any harm," that's simply not good enough for those who aim to lead organizations for change. Given the school's values to 'engage intellectually,' 'strive for something great,' 'respect others,' 'act with integrity' and 'own your actions,' we expect more.
We reached out to the video's producers to ask what they were thinking, but we didn't hear back by press time. We'll update this article if we get a response.
Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.
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