JONES: Engaging Occupy Yale

Next year, I will be working at a major Wall Street firm. Having been raised by parents with socialist values, I also strongly associate and support the social goals of national Occupy movement. However, as someone whose Yale education is funded completely through a Wall Street donor’s gift to Yale, I am offended at that way in which Occupy Yale conducts itself.

I appreciate Brodsky, Levine and Villano (“Occupy emphasizes moral decisions,” Nov. 30) finally conceding that not every investment banker is “inherently evil,” but after receiving an email from Occupy Yale in which I was asked to challenge Morgan Stanley “cronies,” I don’t believe they have grasped the idea. I also don’t believe that they are willing to come to the table and talk.

Using rhetoric like “evil” and “crony” is irresponsible and refocuses the debate away from the real issues being supported by the national Occupy movement. It also implies a moral elitism which is disparaging to Yalies. These “cronies” are still people, our suitemates and family members, people who we love and respect.

I agree with the authors that we must grapple with our postgraduation path as a moral choice. Banking and consulting institutions seek to influence our judgment and hide their faults. However, I do not claim to understand how someone’s background influences their career choice. Occupy Yale apparently does, at least well enough to pass judgment.

Occupy Yale presumes to adequately understand students’ individual backgrounds. They concede that banking is a good way to pay off student loans, but supply all the other reasons themselves: power, prestige, the attainment of “skills,” and of course students’ “addiction” to money, as an Occupy Yale member was quoted in The New York Times. I wonder if the members of Occupy Yale have ever spoken with one of their bright-eyed banker classmates about their motivations in a genuine, nondismissive manner.

Dialogue is needed. Abrasively shouting condescending remarks at students as they enter The Study is not. Nor is posing tilted questions at unsuspecting Morgan Stanley employees, or using bombastic rhetoric to gain national media attention.

But before we can even have dialogue, we need to get the facts straight. Only 11 percent of Yalies from the class of 2010 pursued careers in finance or other business careers outside of Wall Street. That number will be lower this year, considering that 2010 was a banner year for Wall Street recruiting. By comparison, 18 percent of Yalies pursue a job related to education.

Brodsky, Levine and Villano also posit that Wall Street is just “making the rich richer,” while investing is inaccessible to “all but the wealthiest.” In fact, investment banks’ biggest clients are the pension funds of the American working class. Our financial institutions have failed in recent years, but it cannot be ignored that these same institutions have done an incredible job growing the wealth of the average American. Even when adjusting for inflation, a $1,000 pension invested in 1950 in the S&P 500 — which is highly correlated with pension fund returns — would be worth nearly $60,000 today. These are investments that every American has access to.

Should we then rally against those pursuing careers in medicine, who make up a larger part of “the 1%” than do those working in finance? How about the plethora of Yale students who enter law school without considering their real passions? Of course not. But, like finance, both our medical and legal systems have problems — the same problems targeted by the national Occupy movement.

Occupy Yale continues to focus, at least outwardly, on the limited agenda of deriding their classmates while avoiding informed dialogue. I have yet to see a single recommendation from the group on how Yale can change, institutionally, to lessen the over-the-top influence of recruiters on campus — I have a few ideas, if they care to ask. They prefer to instead repeat the same phony “facts.” It’s time to get those facts straight.

Eric Jones is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at eric.jones@yale.edu.

Comments

  • glibmonster

    On the ‘facts’ – do only 11% of Yalies go on to finance?

    According to a survey by the Office of Institutional Research of 2010 graduates (http://oir.yale.edu/detailed-data – “Life After Yale College”), 11% have jobs in business and finance. But this figure does not include students who are in the mysterious ‘industry’ category, which claimed 16% of graduates in 2010. This is shockingly high compared to previous years: in 2008, the percentage of students in ‘industry’ was only 8%, which is on par with the average percentage (7.6%) of students in ‘industry’ for every other year on record.

    According to another document on the OIR website (W075 – Occupational Distribution of Yale College Alumni), industry is defined as “engineer and operations/production management.” But if we look back at that document about 2010 graduates, we see that the highest proportion of majors in ‘industry’ are actually social science majors: political science (n=32) and economics (n=18), to be specific. I suppose that the poli sci department might actually be churning out engineers, but somehow, it seems more plausible that the department is producing a new crop of management consultants. If we combine ‘industry’ with ‘business and finance’, that’s around 27% of 2010 graduates, a figure that is fairly close to the number that Occupy Yale has been citing.

    • hilarity_12

      You realize that “operations/production management” refers to an entire slew of management positions correct? I’ve actually talked with OIR in doing research for the admissions office – Industry does NOT include finance. If you read they actually mention the trend of people moving AWAY from finance and consulting into “Industry”. hmmmmm

  • glibmonster

    Occupy Yale-New Haven?

    According to the new CBO report on inequality, the medical industry does have a larger share of the 1% than financial professionals (16% vs. 11%), but corporate non-financial executives, whose utility to society many might equate with those of financial analysts, actually constitute the largest share (31% of the 1%). In any case, I think it’s pretty hard to make the argument that the medical industry has acted as recklessly and shamelessly as the financial industry in recent years; hence, we have not seen a great backlash against the wealth of doctors. Moreover, the rapid increase in wealth of the 1% (and inequality in American society) has largely been driven (60% of the increase to the top 1%) by these corporate executives and financial professionals—not doctors or lawyers.

  • dms

    Because those poor, poor Yale students are clearly the victims. I can’t imagine how future Morgan Stanley employees will ever forget the trauma of hearing those slogans.

    If you’re so worried about “moral elitism which is disparaging to Yalies,” maybe you should also be concerned about the moral, economic, and cultural elitism with which Yale has long disparaged New Haven.

    Eric presumably wouldn’t object to this protest if the recruiters had been, for instance, arms dealers informing students how to profit from the lucrative trade in assault weapons to central Africa. Or maybe he would, on the grounds that we can’t pass judgment unless we “understand how someone’s background influences their career choice.” What a fantastic phrase: it works just as well for drug dealers and pimp! I’m not saying that Occupy Yale is making this equivalence. But it seems at least as on the mark as the baffling comparison to the medical profession, which last time I checked had never foreclosed on anybody’s house.

    I think it’s excellent that this protest has provoked such outrage. If some students feel personally offended, all the better. The whole point is to disrupt the unquestioned siphoning off of talent into a bloated and irresponsible sector of the economy. This necessarily means confronting not just privilege – and it’s worth keeping in mind, as previous commentators have, that not all bankers come from wealthy backgrounds, although I’d hazard to guess that more do than come from the ghetto – but also the sense of untouchability that has prevented most of the criminals of the financial crisis from paying their debt to society. There must be consequences, just as there have been consequences for the real victims of the financial industry’s criminality: the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless, the hopeless. Yalies need to wake up and realize that life does not end south of Crown Street. I don’t mind a little shock therapy.

    If students in the humanities have to endure endless ridicule for choosing such “useless” careers, why can’t we turn it around? How “useful” is investment banking, compared to teaching or healing or making things? Why does our society reward the one kind of behavior but not the other?

    • SY_11

      I think you are missing the point which both Gidado and Jones have been trying to make. Concerning drug dealers – we actually should seek to understand their backgrounds, their motivations and why they have been basically forced into their situation by their societal constraints (not saying that bankers have been).

      If we understand where they’re coming from we can seek to change the system that produces them. Rather than just condemning them as evil and throwing them in prison. In the same way, Jones concedes that Yale needs to change its policies regarding recruiting, but the only way to get there is to responsibly engage your classmates so that you can better understand the greater picture. Rather than just insulting them as Occupy Yale has done

      • dms

        Meh, I think the insults are a good start. I feel like I’ve been insulted by capitalism my whole life.

        I’m inspired here by things like the Civil Rights Movement and the Apartheid divestment campaign. Shame is a powerful tool. It looks to me like this protest was completely successful, because now prospective Morgan Goldman Stanley Sachs Whatever employees now feel like they have to justify themselves. Just like I’ve always felt pressured to justify my commitment to the humanities. The “conversation” has begun and it’s only thanks to this willingness to offend that it’s in any way on 99% terms.

        I’m more interested in justice than civility.

        • Nhoopster13H

          Congratulations dms, you have proven Jones’ point exactly. At least you’re willing to accept the fact that you’d rather insult your fellow students than engage them.

    • yayasisterhood

      Bankers aren’t arms dealers.

      • River_Tam

        NO THEY’RE WAY WORSE BECAUSE YOU CAN BUY WEAPONS WITH MONEY.

        YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CAN’T BUY WITH MONEY? HUGS.

        • theantiantiyale

          I believe your capslock key is broken.

  • redman

    Investment banking creates jobs, teaching and healing do not. People demonizing banking are ignorant of economics and capitalism. Are there greedy bankers yes, are there greedy doctors , aka, plastic surgeons, yes. Are some teachers child molesters, yes. Growup!

    • dms

      I haven’t seen a lot of job creation over the last three years.

      “Greedy bankers” is idiotic. The problem isn’t personal greed, it’s structural inequality. Punish criminals in any field, yes, but more importantly, change the structure so these crimes aren’t possible in the first place. This doesn’t really work for child molesters because that particular aberration is biological and essentially anti-social. But it does work for banks. It’s called regulation.

      I struggle to comprehend what “ignorant of economics and capitalism” even means. I’m certainly aware capitalism exists. I assume you mean that I have an ignorant attitude towards capitalism, or that I don’t know how it works. This isn’t what you said, however: express yourself better and you’d be more convincing. I hope you’re not a Yale student, because this is not Ivy League grammar.

      I’d like to see you or anyone try to get a job in a world without teachers or doctors. They’re the biggest job-creators of all, because without them society simply would not work. We need to recognize this fact and adjust our priorities accordingly. The upper reaches of capitalism do not exist in some Platonic realm of ideas. Capitalists rely on the rest of us schmucks for their very existence. A little humility is in order.

      • dms

        Just noticed this lovely comment of yours on the World AIDS Day editorial: “Sodomizers beware whether gay or not!” I don’t know why I even bother.

      • River_Tam

        > I hope you’re not a Yale student, because this is not Ivy League grammar.

        Ahahaha. Someone’s never had to peer-edit a DS paper.

  • River_Tam

    > But this figure does not include students who are in the mysterious ‘industry’ category, which claimed 16% of graduates in 2010. This is shockingly high compared to previous years: in 2008, the percentage of students in ‘industry’ was only 8%, which is on par with the average percentage (7.6%) of students in ‘industry’ for every other year on record.

    What’s mysterious about “industry”? Target and Sears Holdings, to name a few “industry” employers, have ramped up hiring in the past few years, and “industry” employers have been getting more Yale grads as financial firms cut back on hiring. This is only “mysterious” if you have no clue what the “industry” term means. I remember an Op-Ed a few years ago decrying that not enough Yalies went into industry (I think it was by Robert Li).

    Proctor & Gamble, Unilver, General Electric, Target, Sears Holdings, and others are all known to recruit Yalies.

  • wenzel
  • Seabold

    This:

    “Brodsky, Levine and Villano also posit that Wall Street is just “making the rich richer,” while investing is inaccessible to “all but the wealthiest.” In fact, investment banks’ biggest clients are the pension funds of the American working class. Our financial institutions have failed in recent years, but it cannot be ignored that these same institutions have done an incredible job growing the wealth of the average American. Even when adjusting for inflation, a $1,000 pension invested in 1950 in the S&P 500 — which is highly correlated with pension fund returns — would be worth nearly $60,000 today. These are investments that every American has access to.”

    Yes.

  • Catherine08

    Saw an occupier on the bus last night: he was boasting to someone about his time in New York: “they turned the tear gas on us, and we turned it right back on them!” An anarchist like that does not speak for me.

  • JP2011

    That debate about Occupy is still raging at Yale makes me for once happy to have graduated. Most people out here in the real world stopped paying attention to this whole Occupy shindig a month ago. Give it a rest and go back to studying, or drinking, or whatever it is you do, and quit causing a ruckus!

  • gzuckier
  • mjg2627

    Thanks Eric!