Occupy Protests Mar Investment Banks’ Recruitment Efforts at Ivy League Universities

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As campus offshoots of Occupy Wall Street crop up at some of the nation’s top universities, investment banks like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) are receiving chilly receptions as protesters target recruiting events.

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Goldman Sachs was forced to cancel visits to Harvard and Brown University last week after a November incident where Occupy Harvard protesters attempted to enter a recruitment session. Students at Yale University, Princeton, and Cornell have also rallied at campus events being held by the investment firms.

Each of the eight elite colleges composing the Ivy League now have organized student groups publicly criticizing their universities for sending high numbers of graduates to Wall Street rather than to jobs that emphasize community service. Sandra Korn, a sophomore majoring in history of science and gender studies at Harvard, said that the university frequently presentscareers in financial and consulting firms as the best or only option.

“It’s kind of frustrating for students who think this is not the most ethical profession,” said Korn. “When some people are making money by taking risks with other people’s lives and livelihoods, that’s detrimental to society.”

About 22 percent of Harvard’s 2011 graduates who planned to enter the workforce were headed into finance and consulting, down from a high of 47 percent in 2008, according to a Harvard Crimson survey published in May. Of those students, half said they would have chosen to work in other professions if salary weren’t a concern.

More than 11 percent of Harvard’s 2011 graduates said they were planning for jobs in education, while one in four were headed to graduate programs, according to the survey.

Last week, a Goldman Sachs recruiting visit to Harvard was canceled “due to proximity to the Reading Period and commencement of exams,” according to a statement released by Goldman. A session days earlier at Brown university was canceled just hours before it was set to begin. Both sessions were rescheduled as Internet-based seminars.

Goldman CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, canceled an October appearance at Barnard College in New York. Students at Columbia University, with which Barnard is affiliated, organized a weeklong protest against Blankfein.

David Wells, a spokesman for Goldman, has declined to comment on the campus protests.

Student protesters are saying that Wall Street banks haven’t been held accountable for promoting the sort of high-risk investments that led to the financial crisis.

“In general, they play a role in the crashing of the economy and the broadening of the income distribution gap,” said Luciana Chamorro, a senior at Princeton. “It’s the maximization of profit at the expense of social equality.”

Chamorro was among the twenty-some students who interrupted a December 7 JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) recruitment session on campus to voice their concern. About 25 students had come to the event to learn about the investment bank, while five people from the company were in attendance, three of whom were recent Princeton graduates.

Morgan Stanley experienced some “peripheral” protest activity at an event at Yale last month, according to company spokeswoman Jeanmarie McFadden. “[But] we have not changed our recruitment activities and we have not seen any impact on attendance,” she said.

At Yale, about 11 percent of undergraduates take jobs in finance, less than the 18 percent that go to work in education.

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