As the student continues providing further evidence to Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov of HOUYI and its founder’s unsuitability to be affiliated with INSEAD® in any way, he is approached by the dean of degree programmes, Professor Urs Peyer, with a request for a meeting to “apologize again and… share feedback from my colleagues about your written communication and the way you have investigated and communicated around our Executive Education client.” The student has already been warned by both Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo and another reliable contact that the dean would be seeking to punish the student for his continuing to investigate the HOUYI partnership. Fearing that this meeting is simply a ruse to silence the student regarding the HOUYI investigation, the student declines to meet with Professor Urs Peyer, instead asking that the “feedback” Professor Urs Peyer intends to share with him be conveyed in writing instead – a request that was never fulfilled. The student considers it inappropriate that the dean of degree programmes is speaking with him about his investigation into a non-degree programme. It appears to be an act of intimidation.
Force for Good – Case Study 2019/11 [DOWNLOAD]
Warnings of Displeasure and Possible Repercussions
On June 25th 2019, the student sent an email to Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov and asked for a personal meeting during Module 7 of the elective courses in Fontainebleau. According to the programme schedule, Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov would be giving a speech on July 11th. The student invited Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov to have dinner with him and suggested that Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo join as well.
On June 26th 2019, Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo replied to the student, copying Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov, saying that she will be in China and will not able to join the dinner. She also separately sent a voice message to the student and advised the student to find an opportunity to talk to the Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov to avoid misunderstanding. (see Appendix 13: Transcript and translation of voice message of Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo – Translated by Court certified Interpreter in the United States of America)
On June 26th 2019, the assistant of Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov rejected the invitation with the following message via email. “WE regret to inform you that Ilian will not be able to meet with you during the period 6-20 July. Hope Prof Rose Luo and you can catch up when you are in Fontainebleau.” It should be noted that Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov was scheduled to be on site on July 11th to give a speech.
Then Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo called the student and said that the Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov was displeased with the student’s manner in his written communications about the investigation of HOUYI. She also mentioned in the call that the Dean of Degree, Prof. Urs Peyer, will contact the student to arrange a meeting in Fontainebleau to pass on Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov’s feedback about the way in which the student had communicated the results of his investigation. She suggested that the student join and be cooperative during the meeting.
The student’s Dual-Degree EMBA programme was provided jointly by INSEAD® and a respected Chinese partner university. On July 27th, the student was informed by another reliable source that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer had sent an email to the partner university seeking support for a joint suspension of his EMBA programme and that Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo will be on-site in China to discuss the details of how to suspend the student jointly. The student was also warned that if he does not acknowledge his investigation as a mistake and refuses to be cooperative during the meeting with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, INSEAD® might hand over a suspension of his EMBA programme during the meeting and will take further action to punish the student.
An Invitation from the Dean of Degree to discuss a non-degree “Client”
On July 3rd Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent the following email to the student:
“I would like to take advantage of you being in Fontainebleau for the electives to meet with you and Anne Bresman, please, for 30min. I wanted, on the one hand, personal apologize again and on the other hand share feedback from my colleagues about your written communication and the way you have investigated and communicated around our Executive Education client.”
Since the student’s investigation into HOUYI pertained entirely to INSEAD’s non-degree programmes, it seemed to him strange and inappropriate that the dean of degree programmes, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, and the director of his EMBA programme, Mrs Bresman, should wish to meet with him about the manner of his communication about the investigation. The student interpreted this as an attempt to intimidate him in order to ensure his silence on the HOUYI issue.
The student kept Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo, Academic Director of degree EMBA programme, in the loop because the initial reflection paper was submitted through her course and, as someone who is a native Chinese speaker and an expert in doing business in China, the student hoped that Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo could provide the management of INSEAD® with a better understanding of the urgency and importance of the case. To save the face of Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov, the student had kept communications regarding the investigation within a very small circle. He had never discussed the HOUYI matter with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer or Mrs Anne Bresman.
The student was perplexed as to why Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov had first asked the student to share his concerns with the Global Director of Alumni Relations, Mr Austin Tomlinson, and, later, asked the dean of his degree programme to evaluate his written communications? He felt that this was an attempt to shift the focus from the real issue. No one from INSEAD® offered any refutation of the actual evidence that the student had presented regarding the HOUYI investigation.
Considering the warnings offered by Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo and the student’s source as well as the suggestion of his lawyer, the student declined to meet Dean Prof. Urs Peyer and replied on July 4th. “… If the executives of the school would like to focus on criticizing or make any conclusion about the way of my written communication (emails). Follow the suggestion of my lawyer; I would like to ask the executive of the school also does it in written form. If the school decided to kick me out of the XXEMBA programme with any reason, please inform me asap. Otherwise, I will keep the rights to claim financial losses.” In addition, the student also pointed out that he was still waiting for a response to his complaint regarding the handling of his absence request from the Leadership Development Programme (discussed in section 4). To draw attention to the irregularities of the situation, the email was copied to INSEAD® board members Dr. Andreas Jacobs and Mr. Claude Janssen. However, it is not clear whether the board members received the email. Furthermore, no feedback was provided in response to it.
The Invitation becomes a Threat
The same day, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer replied: “Your emails keep on puzzling me. I am asking to meet you so that I can hear your side of the story before determining any actions; and a dismissal was not my plan. However, now that you have brought this up, I was curious to know why you would think so and found out about more complaints. Thus, I can see what you are worried about. Still, I would like to follow a fair process and first talk to you. Claire can help us find a time. If you are not planning on attending the Elective module, then we can also connect on the phone. No problem.”
The above email was a confirmation to the student of the warnings from Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo and the reliable source. The email on July 4th from Dean Prof. Urs Peyer basically confirmed that the school was actively collecting complaints that could be used against the student. The student could not understand why there was an intimation that he might not attend a module, since he had never mentioned that he is not planning on attending it. It seemed to him that the school would like to avoid the student’s sharing the results of his investigation with other students when at Fontainebleau and ask controversial questions during Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov’s upcoming speech entitled “A force for good” on July 11th.
The student replied: “I am not worried about a dismissal. Not at all! Follow the suggestion of my lawyer; I will attend the elective courses as planned. However, as I already mentioned, I am fully booked and have no time to talk to you personally or over the phone. Please send the feedback about “the way of my written communication” in written form.”
The initial attempt of Dean Prof. Urs Peyer to stifle the HOUYI investigation had failed. However, his email on July 3rd provokes further questions: Why did Dean Prof. Urs Peyer want to apologize again? It seems strange to apologize and try to punish someone at the same meeting. Knowing as he did that Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov had interpreted the student’s questioning the HOUYI partnership as a personal attack, how could the student trust Dean Prof. Urs Peyer – Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov’s direct subordinate – to listen impartially to the student’s concerns?
Questions & Answers
Why did you decline to attend a meeting with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer to hear the “feedback” that he wished to share?
The promise of an in-person apology was obviously just bait to lure me into a meeting with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, the real purpose of which was to intimidate me into stopping my investigation into HOUYI. I was angry at the Dean’s duplicity in feigning a conciliatory and open-minded attitude when I had excellent reasons to think, based on what I had been told by reliable sources, that he had been sent by Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov to silence me about the HOUYI investigation by any means necessary.
Why did Dean Prof. Urs Peyer describe HOUYI as an “Executive Education Client”?
The HOUYI partnership was potentially worth millions of dollars in revenue for INSEAD®. Upon my highlighting that HOUYI is not a recognised educational establishment, Prof. Xiaowei Rose Lou stopped calling HOUYI a “partner” of INSEAD® and instead tried to describe HOUYI’s relationship with INSEAD® as more that of an agency that recruits students. A “client” is not a partner, but more of a customer who is bringing in revenue.
Why did Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov ask Dean of Degree Prof. Urs Peyer to talk to you about your manner of communication? It seems like you take issue with this.
In my view, it is wholly inappropriate to ask the person (Dean Prof. Urs Peyer) who is in charge of my degree to talk to me about my investigation into INSEAD’s questionable HOUYI partnership to offer a non-degree programme. Why not have the Global Director for Alumni Relations, Mr Austin Tomlinson, or the Dean of non-Degree programmes, Prof. Ben M. Bensaou, share his feedback? This would have avoided any appearance of intimidation.
Do you have evidence that, before his first invitation to you to meet with him, Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent an email asking the partner university to support INSEAD® to punish you?
I do not have evidence. Dean Prof. Urs Peyer and Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo have evidence. Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo was copied in the email. The court could force Dean Prof. Urs Peyer or Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo to submit that email as evidence.
Why did Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo warn you to be cooperative during the meeting with Dean Prof. Urs Peyer?
Prof. Xiaowei Rose Luo gave my reflection paper warm feedback and acknowledged the agreement with HOUYI was a mistake. However, based on my understanding after she talked to Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov she soon understood INSEAD’s financial interest in keeping the agreement. During a conversation over the phone she mentioned that Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov would like to keep the agreement for two years and then see whether it is necessary to terminate the agreement.
She knew my intention was to protect the reputation of INSEAD® in China in the long-term. I believe she had been informed that Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov gave the order to punish me. She contradicted herself in her communications with me. Her voice message implicitly mentioned that the dean was displeased and suggested that I should talk to him in person to avoid any misunderstanding. And later, she suggested to be cooperative over the phone.
Did you inform the partner university about your investigation?
Dean Prof. Urs Peyer must have done, since he had to explain why he is looking for support from the Chinese partner university.
If INSEAD® took action unilaterally to punish me, it is evidently the result of my allegations against Dean Prof. Ilian Mihov. A joint punishment with the partner university would make the decision look more legitimate.
On July 3rd Dean Prof. Urs Peyer sent you invitation to meet to discuss your communications regarding the HOUYI investigation. Why was the director of your EMBA programme Mrs Anne Bresman also invited? And do you think that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer was well prepared for the meeting?
The outcome of the meeting was clearly a foregone conclusion. He believed that he could manage me in 30 minutes. I did not have the honour of speaking to Mrs Bresman during my entire EMBA programme. I believed that if I refused to be cooperative during the meeting, Mrs Bresman would present me with complaints carefully collected for the occasion by Dean Prof. Urs Peyer. That might be her role in the meeting.
So, the school tried to stifle the HOUYI investigation. But you are already almost through your EMBA programme, why not keep quiet and just get your degrees and leave?
Good question. Many asked the same question. There were only 2 modules left. Module 9 in France and 10 in Singapore provide by INSEAD®. I had completed all exams and there were no exams in Module 9 and 10. What I have to complete is the thesis managed by the Chinese university. I could just shut up and get my dual degrees as planned in January 2020. However, I am an extremely curious person and integrity is of paramount importance to me. The attempts to punish me only served to make me more curious and wonder what else INSEAD® had to hide and what other tricks they might have up their sleeve. I wanted to know the extent to which INSEAD® would go in order to silence me.
Why do you believe that Dean Prof. Urs Peyer was actively soliciting complaints against you?
The dean’s communications with me confirmed that he had been actively trying to dig up dirt on me. I declined his invitation to meet on July 4th. Just a few hours later he replies saying that he has “found out more complaints”. I know for a fact that he had started to ask for complaints against me before I mentioned the possibility of being kicked off the programme not, as he claimed, in reaction to me bringing it up.
Why did you keep insisting that INSEAD® communicate with you in writing rather than through phone calls or face-to-face meetings? Isn’t it easier to discuss things verbally? Why do you think that your requests for written feedback were not fulfilled?
To me it was obvious that INSEAD® did not want to give me further evidence of what was really happening – an attempt to intimidate and silence me. Any legitimate feedback about my written communications or my complaints could be put into writing, which is why I kept asking for responses in writing.
To recap, the first failure to provide me with a written response was when I raised my concerns about the HOUYI partnership with Mr Austin Tomlinson. I never received the promised response regarding the outcome of the investigation he said that he would undertake.
My second request for a written response was in regards to my complaint about Mr Vincent Dominé’s inappropriate response to my absence request and the way it reflects upon his capabilities as a professor and practice leader.
My request to Dean Prof. Urs Peyer, described in this section, to put the “feedback” he had to share about my written communications regarding HOUYI was my THIRD request for a written response that was ignored.
The first written warning I received from INSEAD® was a letter suspending me. A subsequent suspension letter referred to a “pattern of instable behaviour” on my part. If such a pattern had been developing, why had I not been given any written warning to give me the opportunity to address any perceived issues with my conduct?
Force for Good – Case Study 2019/11 [DOWNLOAD]