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Another sign of anti-corporate wave

Students demand ‘No banker at commencement’

Published Apr 24, 2010 6:38 AM

Syracuse University students marched through the center of campus on April 16, banged on pots and pans, drummed and chanted to oppose a corporate “takeover” of their commencement. The SU administration has invited CEO Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, the second-largest bank in the U.S., to speak to the 2010 graduating class on May 15.

'Chase is taking my parents' house,'
said one student.
WW photo: Leslie Feinberg

“We are the students, we’re the ones who pay, and we don’t want to hear what Dimon has to say!” they chanted. The campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society coordinated the protest, which was attended by students, faculty and community members, including the Bail Out the People Movement, the Green Party, the Syracuse Peace Council and Workers World Party.

Major U.S. media outlets, including CNBC and ABC News, rushed reporters to cover the protest rally. CNN interviewed organizer Adrienne Garcia live. Major financial news sources — Bloomberg News, the Guardian, MSNBC, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal — have run stories. And the liberal opposition Huffington Post trumpeted, “SU Students Speak for the Nation.”

Student-led petition gives voice to anger

The student-organized “Take Back Commencement” online petition overflows with anger at Dimon’s presence. Matt Sheehan, one of over 1,100 signers, said: “This is a slap in the face to us students. As we enter the work world in this economy, it is an insult to have as a speaker one who bears the responsibility of why we will struggle to gain employment.”

Other signers, like R. Joseph, indict the role of the banks in home foreclosures: “I work hard in college. Chase is taking my parents’ house — one they owned for over 20 years. Corporate criminal!” A former employee of Chase, Grace Wojcik, lists herself as “strongly opposed” to Dimon speaking.

Other reasons cited for opposing a banker CEO as an “inspirational” speaker are the homelessness, suicides and family suffering from foreclosures, crushing student debt, predatory credit card practices, job cuts and the role of JPMorgan Chase in destroying the environment. Some parents, as well as students, say they are boycotting the graduation and SU as a college choice for their children altogether.

To view or sign the SU Take Back Commencement petition, go to www.petitiononline.com/SUGRADUA/petition.html.

Anti-capitalist education

Two young women in orange SU t-shirts kept energy high during the rally by leading the crowd in a satiric musical spoof, “Jamie, won’t you buy me a college degree” — to the tune of an old Janis Joplin song. An undergraduate degree at SU can cost more than $200,000. Four years ago, the average debt carried by an SU graduate was $27,455. (collegeconfidential.com)

One guest rally speaker, local Green Party activist Howie Hawkins, stressed the role of Dimon’s bank as a key underwriter for catastrophic mountaintop-removal practices by coal companies that are devastating to the Appalachian environment and the global atmosphere.

The bank has been lead bond manager for the safety-violation flaunting company Massey Energy, according to ourfuture.org. Natasha Chart, in “This Mine Explosion Brought to You by JPMorgan Chase,” further argues the complicity of the bank in the recent death of 29 miners at the West Virginia mine owned by Massey.

Other speakers exposed JPMorgan as having profited from chattel slavery and from current Pentagon wars. Between 1831 and 1865 its predecessor banks held as collateral or in actual possession more than 14,000 human beings, amassing wealth from kidnapped, forced, unpaid labor. Lawyers working on a class action suit against Morgan and similarly implicated U.S. banks and corporations estimate that their total profits from the slave trade would amount to over $2 trillion today. (Millions for Reparations)

The bank has garnered undisclosed millions from managing the Trade Bank of Iraq in the wake of the U.S. invasion of that country, forcing the mortgaging of the country’s oil revenues in exchange for overseas credit. (CorpWatch.org)

JPMorgan reaped $3.33 million in profits during the first quarter of 2010 — a 57 percent rise over the same period in 2009. A worldwide series of trials have recently begun against the corporate giant for fee padding and fraud. Charges have been filed against the bank by prosecutors in Sydney, Australia; Milan, Italy; and San Francisco. (Asia Times)

Student signs critiqued the corporatization of education. One cartoon showed the SU mascot and the Chase bank logo happily hand in hand. In 2007 the bank gave SU $30 million to “enhance the university’s financial service technology curriculum.” (ABC)

Students applauded a rally speaker who praised them for rejecting “the banking theory of education” — a concept spotlighted and denounced by Brazilian educator and socialist Paulo Freire. A recent student opinion poll shows that the SU students are part of a huge majority: only 11 percent of students surveyed said they trusted Wall Street bankers to “do the right thing all or most of the time.” And 84 percent worried about getting a job after graduation. (Harvard Institute of Politics)

The writer, an untenured teacher at Syracuse University, spoke at the April 17 rally. Her remarks can be read at minniebruce.blogspot.com.