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Students organize against bank ‘takeover’ of commencement

Published Apr 8, 2010 9:33 PM

Students at Syracuse University are mobilizing to stop the head banker of JPMorgan Chase from delivering their 2010 graduation address in May. CEO Jamie Dimon has run the financial giant, the second biggest bank in the U.S., since 2005. That year, JPMorgan Chase admitted the company was built on profits from slavery, noting its earlier banks had owned at least 1,250 enslaved people. In 2008 JPMorgan piled up further profits by buying failed savings bank Washington Mutual and continuing its massive loan foreclosures.

Outraged SU students posted a petition online explaining why they oppose Dimon: “We, the students, alumni and friends of the university, are against using the 2010 commencement to restore the public image of the banking industry and validate the anti-environmental and anti-humanitarian interests of JPMorgan Chase. We demand a graduation speaker sensitive to the current global climate that this class is poised to inherit on May 16th, 2010.” The SU chapter of Students for a Democratic Society has been leading the organizing.

The petition drew hundreds of signatures within days. Signers include students, alums, faculty and community members, and other supporters. Many have added short messages indicting the role of the banks in the current economic crisis, citing suicides, homelessness and family suffering from foreclosures, crushing student debt, predatory credit card practices and job cuts. Campus Citrus TV noted JPMorgan Chase’s role in environmental destruction by financing the coal mine industry in mountain top “removal.”

One signer said, “This graduating class of individuals has a very small chance of gaining meaningful employment as a direct result of the unchecked abuses of [Dimon’s] own financial industry.”

Students and supporters have tweeted and retweeted, MySpaced and Facebooked, emailed and reposted news about the struggle. On April 5 the petition ranked in the top 25 on PetitionOnline.com, a free online host for public petitions. To read the petition and comments and add signatures, visit www.petitiononline.com/SUGRADUA/petition.html.