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 firstname.lastname@example.org.