November 27, 2012

Protesters Disrupt Goldman Sachs Recruitment Event at Cornell

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Several loud bursts of mocking laughter interrupted a Goldman Sachs recruitment event held on Cornell’s campus Tuesday night, the result of a planned demonstration aimed at deterring students from careers in investment banking.

On several occasions, a group of students laughed hysterically at seemingly random instances, drawing the attention of many of the more than 100 people gathered in the Statler Hotel Ballroom, people at the networking event said.

After laughing, one of the students then loudly banged on a table and shouted, “‘There’s so much greed in this room, let’s get out of here,’” according to Zach Solomon ’14, who attended the event.  The group of students who had been laughing then followed this student out of the ballroom with their arms raised.

In an email Tuesday night, a group claiming to represent what it said was the 30 students responsible for the demonstration explained their intentions.

“Despite an ongoing global recession rooted in the excessive power of finance capital, Cornell has not reconsidered its blind acceptance of banking institutions,” the statement said. “Our actions intend to spur a dialogue among students able to make real change — students of Cornell University.”

The group insisted on anonymity, and people at the event gave a wide range of estimate of the number of people involved.

The demonstration is not the first to try to challenge the campus presence of major Wall Street investment banks. In a similar effort in October 2011, about a dozen members of local Occupy Wall Street movements protested a Work on Wall Street Conference, holding signs that implored recruits to “Stop the Cornell – Wall Street pipeline.”

The local activity of Occupy Movements has declined in 2012, but much left-wing indignation toward the alleged wrongs of America’s biggest financial institutions — often blamed for the financial crash of 2008 — has continued unabated.

Students at the event gave varying accounts of the degree and extent to which the demonstration affected the networking event.

“I didn’t even know why they were there,” Jonathan Levine ’14 said of the protesters, noting that the demonstration was  “really weird.” The protesters “diverted [people’s] attention, but … the conversation continued five seconds after.”

“They got the attention of everybody, but they weren’t very successful,” Levine said.

Solomon agreed that the protesters seemed to have had “very little impact other than interrupting conversations.”

“I feel like it’s their right to do, but I think it’s ineffective and shines a bad light on Cornell,” he said.

Despite some doubts about the group’s methods, Luke Namer ’13 had a more positive view of the demonstration.

“It definitely disturbed the atmosphere of the event — it threw people off [who were] expecting a completely intense, earnest environment,” Namer said. “I think events like these can play a positive role on college campuses, but it is also important to find a way to communicate your motivation to protest for those who may find your actions unnecessary and rude”

While Goldman Sachs may not have been thrown off campus, Namer said he was thankful the protesters provided a different perspective at the recruitment event.

“No one shouted anything, but it did seem to make people know there was an opposition to these things,” he said.

Original Author: Jeff Stein