Embarrassing stunts reflect poorly on University

Derek Abel & David Dunlay | Class of 2014

Last Wednesday, we too stood alongside Washington University students at the Olin Business School’s Meet the Firms event in the Charles F. Knight Executive Education & Conference Center. However, unlike Rosemary Shanley and other members of Green Action, we, along with the vast majority of other students present, were there in hopes of networking and meeting representatives of various companies and striving to secure a job. Like most other students, we have endured the grueling recruitment process for internships and full-time jobs and know that every interaction is vital to landing a position in such a competitive environment.

The Meet the Firms event provides all students of this school with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with firms and their representatives who have traveled to Wash. U. from across the country. For many students, finding a job at these firms, particularly firms like Bank of America, is extremely difficult. A significant number of banks recruit the bulk of their college graduates from so-called “target schools,” of which Wash. U. is not currently included. As such, we found it appalling when the room’s atmosphere turned from pleasant to quiet to filled with yelling and coughing, the lattermost stemming from directly in front of the Bank of America booth. If embarrassment was Green Action’s goal, they certainly achieved it.

Regardless of one’s beliefs about the effects of coal, it would be difficult to argue that the stunts performed Wednesday or Thursday were anything but inappropriate, untimely, and an embarrassment to the members of the protest and this university. Students who attend this school have dedicated years of study in an effort to secure a job. The Weston Career Center and the Olin Business School have staff that invest countless hours recruiting firms to visit Wash. U. The firms themselves invest money in having booths, sending representatives to St. Louis and hiring graduates of this institution. Above all, recruiters and representatives of companies visiting this campus are guests and deserve to be treated as such. Deliberately attempting to humiliate these individuals is unacceptable.

The act of drawing attention to one’s cause in such a manner as that used by Green Action only appears selfish and attention-seeking. Could the group not have achieved a better discussion by approaching the representatives of Bank of America and having a conversation with them? Is the group so desperate for attention, so inconsiderate, that it couldn’t engage its fellow students in conversation before going into the event, informing them of its beliefs and suggesting that the students attending the event truly investigate for whom they are considering working? Brash, naive actions serve no purpose and have no place at this university, no matter the cause.

As a sidenote, Bank of America has pledged $50 billion toward investment in green companies (New York Times, June 10, 2012).

  • LukeWhoVotesConservative

    Lets talk about privilege for a second.

    Is there anything more privileged than “activism” and pretending to be a martyr for a cause with childish stunts when someone else is paying for your $250,000 private education? Is trying to secure a job to support yourself “privileged,” or is it responsible and self-dependent?

    Tell me more about how passionate you are as you whine about things you don’t agree with instead of getting a job and taking real action.

    Enjoy your time at WashU, kids. The real world is going to hit you hard.

  • LukeMan

    Above comment: “Spoken like someone with no beliefs they’d pound the streets for.”

    The author clearly has strong beliefs and values, given the article. Maybe he’s just a little too mature to throw a tantrum like a toddler at a career fair.

    Come get some, “Radiant Sunshine”

    • Radiant Sunshine

      Meet me under Brookings at 2 am on the 25th, bro. Best bring a friend or three.

      • Alex

        lol. Frat star

    • anonymous

      Strong values in the advancement of his own privileged self-interests.

  • anonymous

    “Brash, naive actions serve no purpose and have no place at this university, no matter the cause.” Great to know that WashU is preparing its students to put their own privilege and self-interest ahead of concerns of social justice and inequality! Would hate to ‘reflect the University poorly’ by i don’t know, having a concern about the world.

  • David Scott

    I applaud the members of Green Action for looking past their own fears, desires, and reputations to fight against the lethal practice of Mountaintop Removal (MTR) which has increased the rates of birth defects, cancer, and heart disease in Appalachia. Shame on the authors of this submission for seeking employment from an institution that would finance the destruction of those communities and for composing this desperate and self serving apology.
    To no avail, I re-read this submission several times to try and silence the ‘snobby little rich kid’ voice-over which insisted on grousing its way through this complaint. Leave it to students from the most prestigious university in the area to worry about their own careers and school reputation in the eyes of the banking industry while accusing their classmates, who defend the cancer stricken victims of MTR, of being selfish and attention-seeking.

  • Anonymous

    I find it ironic that students protesting on the behalf of environmental conservation are considered selfish for possibly interfering with individuals concerned for their own jobs. Student protesters represented a cause outside of their own personal interests and which benefits everyone, whereas those responding with negativity are not. I understand that Bank of America representatives went home primarily with the impression of protests in their minds, but awareness is the goal and something that protesting in front of an inanimate ATM cannot achieve. Had they addressed the ATM or some other bank location, I’m sure other students would be quick to criticize their ineffectiveness. These are the protests that I would call glamorized and attention-seeking, for they are all about the act of protesting with no intention of results. The students who protested made a firm statement, showed commitment, planned and executed, took risks, and did what is apparently unpopular because they saw it as beneficial to a larger cause. Perhaps if those seeking employment showed similar abilities in the business realm, they stayed in the Bank of America representatives’ minds as well.

  • Jerome Bauer

    I am not a Jain (because that would be too hard) but they are my academic specialty, perhaps because I admire their principled refusal to take the collateral damage defense. That’s a good rule for activists to follow too, both good strategy and good tactics. I sympathize with those who have been hurt and wonder how to make amends while remaining true to the cause.

    In early summer 2010, shortly after peaceful demonstrators were surrounded and assaulted by Wells Fargo security guards while protesting foreclosure of Culver Way Ecovillage property, the MORE core group retaliated by flyering a restaurant, Harry’s, where Wells Fargo executives (and FBI agents) were known to eat lunch (on the way in, we waved at the FBI office across the street, and I almost winked). We were polite and well dressed and so there was no reason not to let us in, but when we started politely handing out flyers to the diners, we were politely asked to leave. We left only play money with portraits of the Bank of America and Wells Fargo executives as our tip. At the after action debriefing, some of us wondered if the manager and servers might lose their jobs. I hope not.

    I felt so bad I just had to come up with a personal ritual of atonement and share it with others, to pay it forward. I made a Facebook event called “The People’s Happy Hour,” and exhorted attendees to spend as much as usual, or as little as possible, and wrap their generous cash tip in their favorite political flyer or play money. Servers on the Delmar Loop can attest to my consistency over the last three years. I haven’t been back to Harry’s yet. Perhaps someone else will go in my place and leave the cash tip I never left. I don’t believe in taking the collateral damage defense, not even for a good cause. I would rather not cheat the servers or get them fired. Other things being equal, I would rather not ruin anybody’s day or hurt anybody’s chance of getting a good job, even with Bank of America or Wells Fargo or Citimortgage. I know, other things are never equal.

    “There’ll always be a happy hour,
    for those with money, jobs, and power;
    They’ll never realize the hurt,
    they cause to folks they treat like dirt.”

  • ignatius

    Dear Sir,
    Your diacritically-inept spelling of ‘naïve’ reflects a blighted and retarded grasp of our Language; and even if your idiotic ramblings had hinted at some glimmer of rationality buried in the reptilian depths of your dithering cortex, this linguistic failing all but consigns you to the pack of troglodytic money-pushers whose existence has all but damned any hope for reason and beauty in this befouled school and country.
    Busily,
    Ignatius

    • Respondent to Fools

      I can speak with knowledge of the matter that the mistake was made in the transition from word document to internet posting. Your choice of an archaic name is wonderfully representative of your need to hide your all-consuming dementia from the literate public. Good day to you, sir, and may you remember at least a few more of them.

    • Revision Much?

      Ah! A true linguistic connoisseur might, too, have wept at fluency during this reading. If we are to demonstrate to the said financial institutions our mortal embarrassment by the antics of these arbor affectionados, then we must more eloquently project ourselves into their Sergio Rossis. ‘Investing money in having booths’ fails both to accurately interpret the process by which the said corporation would have allocated representation at this auction, and to capture the anguish by those who trimmed nostril hairs and performed other acts of hygiene in order to secure a position within the morally bankrupt financial industry.

      Oh dear.

      -’For many students, finding a job at these firms, particularly firms like Bank of America, is extremely difficult.’-

      While a recruiter may appreciate the groveling spirit of this sentence, they might also dismay at the number of commas and multiple uses of the word ‘firm’. Remember, a well written resume may save you from future embarrassment and allow you to extend financial services to those who would destroy the ancestral homes of your countrymen.

    • Finance101

      You have a great grasp of the English language! NICE JOB

      • Revision Much?

        What can I say? Satire is a guilty pleasure and you weepy eyed business drones sniffling away on the auction block are so irresistible. Remember, the activists had no intention of exposing you for the vacant clowns that you truly are; that feat was initialized and accomplished by two freshman-level writers.

        I would ask the authors to resist any misgivings about the article; the absence of empathy and conscience is understandably detrimental to your written expression. It wasn’t a matter of switching from Word to Java, you are simply novices. Go forth; speculate viability; analyze risk, but conserve a little paper by reserving space in this publication for those who possess better control of syntax.

  • Are you kidding me?

    This may be the single most offensive article I have ever read in StudLife. Whether or not the authors of this article agreed with the stance on coal (and whether or not the readers of this article do), this simply highlights the depressing way politics on campus are fetishized and stuck in the particular niche of political discussion. I have news for the authors of this article, you should not expect people to put your search for post-grad employment over their deeply held beliefs and values. If I were one of these protesters, I would not decide that I would put aside my disgust with Bank of America simply because they were invited by Wash U. You accuse this activism of not being friendly? Guess what? Activism is not always friendly. Look at student political activism in recent history (or even currently other areas in the US). The actions that have led to the most radical change have not been organized conversations or polite discourse, they have been radical protests and confrontational action. The Vietnam student protests are the best example. I personally applaud the protesters and wish that some of that activist spirit rubbed off on the rest of the campus.

    Think about it this way: if the protesters had simply reached out to BoA, would any of us really be talking about it?

    • Concerned Libertarian

      This must be a joke. Maybe others hold their search for and desire to land post-graduate employment or summer internships ahead of the protesters’ ideals? That cross your mind? Probably not. I applaud the writers of this piece, that is their own form of expression and “activism”. If the protesters can put their ideologies ahead of others it has to be a two-way street. Come on now.

  • Jerome Bauer

    In Spring 2008 I was part of a group that organized protest of the award of honorary doctorate to alum Phyllis Schlafly, and an extensive commentator on the Student Life discussion board (all taken down since the format change). Except for a small group of highly knowledgeable students on both sides, most had barely heard of Phyllis Schlafly but their parents had strong feelings. We managed to organize a huge protest involving the handing our of fliers, the wearing of white armbands, and quietly turning around. As I fired of my grill for one of my BBQs to bring people together, the most articulate Schlafly defender paid me a brief surprise visit, to thank the protest group on behalf of the College Republicans for the polite and civil way we were conducting ourselves. It cannot have been lost on the College Republicans that they too could use this tactic whenever they have an unaddressed grievance, of which I am sure they have many. After the protest the University released a statement proclaiming the protest strong and well organized and endorsing our right to protest, and so a precedent has been set.

    Disruptive tactics may sometimes be appropriate, as part of a coherent strategy, by people who are not trying to win a popularity contest but advance a cause. In general, speaking just for myself, I prefer quiet polite tactics, or good humored political theater that raises a smile and makes no enemies. Generally I think it is best to try to convert ones opponents, not alienate them, even though I myself am not trying to win a popularity contest.

    “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory”–Sun Tzu, Art of War, quoted by OccupyMarines

  • Green Action member

    Important note to the OP:

    This was not a Green Action event. This protest was organized by a coalition of individual students that were not acting on behalf of a student organization. Although Green Action members were invited to participate, and some chose to participate as representatives of themselves (NOT as representatives of Green Action), Green Action as an organization was not affiliated with this action.
    OP, please consider releasing a response, as you have misrepresented Green Action in this post.

  • thank you

    Thank you for this. Protest at a BoA office or ATM. Don’t disrespect other students’ interests and learning. Just as a protest seeks to make others think about the consequences of their actions, protestors need to be mindful as well. What happened was embarrassing to the school, ineffective, and does not reflect well on the groups participating.

    Too often are groups such as these given a free ride because of the nature of their message. I am very glad to see that the writers of this op-ed were willing to hold the protestors accountable for their actions publicly.

    • WashU

      But of course, protesting a BoA office or ATM would be disrespecting BoA employees, and people just trying to get some cash from the ATM. If you play the game of avoiding inconvenience, you can never win. That’s why activists don’t play it.

      For most protests to be effective, they inevitably inconvenience — and maybe even, gasp, offend! — people.

      And BTW, if your entire post-grad career is hinging on a single low-key networking event, I encourage you to re-evaluate your career strategy.

    • Jerome Bauer

      What a great idea! Occupy the ATM! I’ll be the one with the handmade sign that reads “They Only Call It Class War When We Fight Back.”

  • Aha!

    While I disagree with the agenda of the student group, it’s activism. It’s not supposed to be nice, and it’s not supposed to please people. Hell, if activists aren’t pissing people off, they’re probably doing something wrong. Given the reaction, as well as the amount of attention these guys are getting, I’d say they did exactly what they should’ve done.

    That said, their message is asinine and out-of-touch with the world. Fortunately, they’ll grow up in a few years.

    • Finance101

      Individual students’ welfare is not something to mess with, even if you are trying to “get a reaction.” Take a random student who has spent a year networking, practicing interviewing, and even picking out a suit. It is unfair to endanger this person’s future, indeed make his preparation a waste of time, to further your own cause.

      • Radiant Sunshine

        Spoken like someone with no beliefs they’d pound the streets for.