Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley are getting a chilly reception at top colleges, including Harvard University and Princeton University, as campus offshoots of Occupy Wall Street target investment-bank recruiting events.
Goldman Sachs canceled visits to Harvard and Brown University last week following a November incident where Occupy Harvard protesters attempted to enter a recruitment session. Students at Yale University, Princeton and Cornell University have also rallied at campus events by investment firms.
Students of the eight elite colleges composing the Ivy League in the northeastern U.S., such as Sandra Korn of Harvard and Tom Moore of Cornell, are criticizing their universities for sending high numbers of graduates to Wall Street, rather than to jobs that emphasize community service. Careers in financial and consulting firms are frequently presented as the best or only option, said Korn, a sophomore majoring in history of science and gender studies who participated in the Nov. 28 protest.
“It’s kind of frustrating for students who think this is not the most ethical profession,” Korn, 19, said in a telephone interview. “When some people are making money by taking risks with other people’s lives and livelihoods, that’s detrimental to society.”
About 22 percent of Harvard 2011 graduates who planned to enter the workforce were headed into finance and consulting, down from a high of 47 percent in 2007, according to a Harvard Crimson survey published in May. Half the students entering those fields said they would have chosen to work in other professions if salary weren’t a concern.
More than 11 percent were planning for jobs in education, and one in four were ticketed for graduate programs, according to the survey.
A Dec. 8 Goldman Sachs recruiting visit to the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based university was canceled “due to proximity to the Reading Period and commencement of exams,” according to an e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News. A session days earlier on Brown’s campus in Providence, Rhode Island, was scuttled hours before it was to begin, the Brown Daily Herald reported Dec. 5. Both sessions were rescheduled as Internet-based seminars.
Goldman Sachs Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, canceled an October appearance at Barnard College in New York. Students at Columbia University, with which Barnard is affiliated, organized a weeklong protest against Blankfein, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported on its website. Barnard President Debora L. Spar joined Goldman Sachs’s board in June.
West Coast Shipping
David Wells, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment on the campus protests.
Protests spawned by the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in September have focused attention on Americans who lost homes and jobs as credit froze after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in 2008, contributing to the worst recession since the Great Depression, even as many U.S. banks rebounded. The movement that began in a New York park has spread to cities worldwide including Boston, London, Sydney and Toronto.
Occupy demonstrators yesterday protested to halt shipping operations at ports in Oakland and Long Beach, California, and Portland, Oregon, where Goldman Sachs owns a stake in the largest cargo-terminal operator. The economic value of containerized cargo at West Coast ports is about $705 million a day, according to Martin Associates, a Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based consulting firm.
College students are saying that Wall Street banks haven’t been held accountable for promoting the high-risk investments that led to the financial crisis.
“In general, they play a role in the crashing of the economy and the broadening of the income distribution gap,” said Luciana Chamorro, a senior at Princeton. “It’s the maximization of profit at the expense of social equality.”
Chamorro said she’s been disappointed by the focus on Wall Street and consulting jobs among the opportunities presented by the Princeton, New Jersey-based university’s career office. She was among about 20 students who interrupted a Dec. 7 JPMorgan Chase & Co. recruitment session on campus to voice their concern. There were about 25 students there who had come to learn about the investment bank, and five people from the company, three of them recent Princeton graduates, she said.
“I don’t think we seemed threatening in any way to them,” she said. “We both gave each other the space to say what we were thinking and I think that was really good.”
Morgan Stanley experienced some “peripheral” protest activity at an event at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, last month, said Jeanmarie McFadden, a spokeswoman for the firm.
“We have not changed our recruitment activities and we have not seen any impact on attendance,” she said.
Yale respects the rights of students to protest peacefully, said Allyson Moore, associate dean of Yale College and director of career services.
“None of the companies were distressed by it,” Moore said. “They anticipated it.”
About 11 percent of Yale undergraduates take jobs in finance, less than the 18 percent that go to work in education, Moore said.
“Our philosophy is to support each individual student’s career aspirations,” Moore said. “If they want a career in the arts, we’ll do our level best to help them achieve that and if they aspire to a career in business, we’ll work equally as hard.”
Korn, the Harvard student, said she has slept in a tent in Harvard Yard about 14 times as part of the Occupy protest. She said she heard speeches by university President Drew Faust that emphasized the importance of public-service careers.
Under Faust, Harvard has increased opportunities and support for students seeking experiences and careers in public service, said Jeff Neal, a university spokesman. Efforts last year included a series of new Presidential Public Service Fellowships. She has also said that the university’s next fundraising campaign will include increasing summer public-service opportunities, according to Neal.
On Nov. 28, Korn said she and about 25 other Occupy Harvard protesters tried to enter the Goldman Sachs event. She said a staff member told her group they couldn’t enter because they weren’t properly dressed and didn’t have resumes.
The protesters remained outside, chanting anti-Goldman Sachs slogans, she said. Students who had come to hear the bank’s presentation were unhappy, she said.
“There were certainly some students who were a little annoyed,” she said.
Colleges should consider banning corporate recruiting, as they did military recruiters, as antithetical to the purposes of a university, said Moore, the Cornell sophomore.
“There’s a sense that they’re appealing to people who don’t have a lot of options, that graduation is coming near and debt is piling up,” Moore said. “People are becoming part of this profoundly unjust institution because they don’t see an alternative.”
Moore said his views have caused friction with classmates interested in Wall Street jobs.
“I’ve definitely had some friendships strained,” he said.