Saturday, 10 December 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Campus Version



Up until recently, Occupy Wall Street was a movement actually contained to the firms against which it protested. They occupied the literal Wall Street as well as other financial buildings scattered across New York City. However, as the movement as grown, it has taken on an interesting form. It has spread to college campuses across the nation, first beginning as a protest against tuition hikes and student debt, and finally spilling into the conference rooms where firms were holding their information sessions. Those of who study finance and economics at the Stern School of Business, along with our fellow peers in CAS who have similar aspirations, are most likely already entrenched in the recruitment process. Most firms who recruit at NYU have held their fall information sessions and applications will be soon be due. However, as we ready ourselves for the upcoming interviews and networking sessions, many other campuses are fighting this very process.

Most recently, Princeton University students joined the ranks of fellow Ivy-League Yale students in directly protesting against firms who arrive for on-campus recruitment. In mid-November, a group of 25 undergraduate Yale students protested outside the Morgan Stanley information session. They fervently waved their signs and loudly chanted slogans against the large portion of Yale graduate who choose to enter the field of finance and/or consulting. The Occupy Princeton movement, however, took it to a whole new level. Rather than protest from the outside, student protesters entered presentations held by JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs under the pretense of actually being interested in the firms. The ruse even went for longer as the students networked with recruiters and signed the obligatory sheets that signified their attendance at the event. This, however, changed as the students finally seated to hear the introduction and key note speakers. Using the Occupy movement’s signature method, the “mic check” call-and-response strategy, a student rose amongst the ranks at the JP Morgan session to reprimand the firm’s actions. After he said, “your predatory lending practices helped crash our economy,” his fellow protestors would repeat the line. This continued for the whole speech, leaving the recruiters in an awkward situation. A similar enactment was performed at the Goldman Sachs information session. This time, the student protester also added a note for her fellow students, emphasizing that one of Princeton’s key ideals was “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”

Based on the Yale and Princeton incidences, it is clear that not only do the student movements have an issue with the firms themselves, they have an issue with their fellow peers following the ranks into finance. They believe that they are too intelligent to waste their talents on Wall Street and that their education could be of better use in another, perhaps less well-paying, field. This sentiment against finance has in fact affected students beyond the Ivy League as both the appeal and the stability of a career in finance has decreased. However, at the end of the day, it is unfair to classify the whole of finance as a futile career path. Even more unwarranted is the audacity of one student to claim that he/she knows what is best for a fellow peer. Therefore, although certain banks have curtailed on-campus recruitment for financial purposes, let us hope that the occupy student movements do not deter on-campus recruitment for those students still interested in finance.

By Meha Patel


Watch videos of the Princeton University information sessions at: http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2011/12/09/an-orange-and-black-eye-for-2-banks/

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