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雷鸟折翼内幕:记一所老牌商学院的衰落

Taylor Ellis 2013年07月15日

日前,以国际管理教育而久负盛名的雷鸟全球管理学院打算把自己位于亚利桑那州的校园出售给一家营利性教育公司,结果引发了轩然大波。此前,由于资金不足、入学率下降等原因,雷鸟已经负债累累。不过,不少人还是接受不了学校的脱困方案,雷鸟的上海校友会甚至上书,称宁愿学校倒闭,也不能出卖。

    鉴于2012年的财政预算出现高达400万美元的赤字,雷鸟全球管理学院(Thunderbird School of Global Management)已同意抓住一条亟需的救生索。这所以国际管理教育而久负盛名的学校打算将其坐落于亚利桑那州的校园出售给一家营利性的教育公司。

    这个决定激起了一波争议风暴。至少有两个董事会成员已经辞职以示抗议,近2,000位校友签署了一份请愿书,声称与桂冠教育公司(Laureate Education Inc.)达成的协议将“贬低雷鸟学位的价值。”

    “我们心目中的那个雷鸟即将逝去,”董事和校友默尔•辛里奇在他的辞职信中写道。“于雷鸟而言,这笔交易是一个悲剧,桂冠教育公司则捡了个大便宜。”另一位宣布辞职的董事小托马斯•格里尔声称,把一所用学费和捐赠资金建造的校园出售给桂冠教育公司“没有天理”。格里尔发誓再也不向这所学校贡献他的时间和金钱了。

    从去年11月开始担任雷鸟全球管理学院校长的拉里•彭利认为,他们的忧虑可以理解,但被误导了。“沉溺于对过往经历的怀念致使我们抗拒改变,”彭利补充道。“美国人对营利性教育机构特有的偏见也造成了阻力。然而,这些事实都无法说明桂冠教育公司将像其他营利性教育机构那样行事。”

    一些观察人士指出,这笔交易再次证明公众对MBA学位的兴趣日益衰减。事实上,这家教育机构如今面临的许多麻烦已经持续了很长时间,而且都是自身造成的,从而使它成为一个研究组织衰落的典型案例。这个新的合作关系映射出雷鸟全球管理学院多年来每况愈下的处境。这所商学院的衰落是许多因素促成的,比如竞争压力不断加剧,资金募集工作乏善可陈,没有投入足够资源帮助学生寻找工作,一些教师领取的薪酬过于优厚等等。

    相较于许多商学院竞争对手,雷鸟全球管理学院的捐赠基金显得非常微薄,近几年一直不到2,000万美元。2004年好不容易争取到的一笔价值6,000万美元的冠名权捐款承诺(这是美国所有商学院当时获得的最大一笔捐款承诺),后来却并没有完全兑现。

    然而,即使这所学校缺乏雄厚的捐赠基金,有几位教授的薪酬却非常优渥。全球战略教授坎南•拉马斯瓦米(供职于雷鸟高层管理人员培训项目)在2011财年领取的总薪酬高达70.0096万美元。对于一位在这所位于亚利桑那州格伦代尔的学校之外并不被视为超级明星的学者而言,这笔薪酬似乎高得有些离谱。它甚至超过了时任校长安吉尔•卡布雷拉的薪金总额(58.4749美元)。

    With its 2012 fiscal budget $4 million in the red, the Thunderbird School of Global Management has agreed to grasp a sorely needed lifeline. The school, long known for its international business focus, is selling its Arizona campus to a for-profit education company.

    The decision has kicked up a storm of controversy. At least two board members have resigned in protest and nearly 2,000 of the school's alumni have signed a petition contending that its agreement with Laureate Education Inc. would "cheapen the value of the [Thunderbird] degree."

    "This is the end of Thunderbird as we have known it," wrote Merle Hinrich, a director and alumnus, in his resignation letter. "The Laureate transaction is a tragedy for Thunderbird and a total windfall for Laureate." Thomas Greer Jr., another board member who resigned, called the decision to sell Laureate a campus built with tuition funds and donations "unconscionable." Greer vowed to no longer contribute either his time or his money to the school.

    Thunderbird President Larry Penley, who started on the job last November, believes their concerns are understandable yet misguided. "That intimate nostalgia for what we experience causes us to be resistant to change," added Penley. "And then the bias that Americans especially have because of what's been discovered about for-profits causes resistance. However, the facts don't line up with Laureate behaving like these other for-profits."

    Some observers say the deal is evidence of waning interest in the MBA degree. In fact, many of the institution's troubles have been long lasting and self-inflicted, making it a quintessential case study in organizational decline. The new partnership reflects years of deterioration due to increased competition from rivals, lackluster fundraising, insufficient resources devoted to getting jobs for students, and overly generous compensation for some of its faculty.

    The school's endowment, which in recent years has been below $20 million, is meager compared to many of its business school competitors. It didn't help that a $60 million naming gift, at the time in 2004 the largest pledge ever made to a business school, never fully materialized.

    Yet, even though the school lacks a significant endowment, several of its professors have been paid extraordinarily well. Kannan Ramaswamy, a global strategy professor who teaches in Thunderbird's executive education programs, had a total compensation package with benefits of $700,096 in fiscal 2011. That is munificent pay for an academic who is not known as a superstar outside his school in Glendale, Arizona. It even exceeded the total pay of then-Thunderbird President Angel Cabrera whose compensation totaled $584,749.

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