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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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