Columbia to Citi CEO: Drop Dead

Flickr /<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/william-munoz/3490292892/">William Munoz</a>.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


Students and alumni of Columbia University in the City of New York® are raving mad today over the university’s selection of Citigroup CEO/recession profiteer/irrational optimist Vikram Pandit to speak at its upcoming School of International and Public Affairs commencement. Turns out the school’s budding diplomats, civil servants, and aid workers were less than pleased to be sent off into a bleak job market by one of America’s worst captains of industry (if, by “industry,” one means “that steaming load of worthless mortgage-backed derivatives that sent 401(k)’s and hiring levels off a jagged cliff”).

“I certainly did not spend two years of my life at this school to sit for hours at my own graduation ceremony applauding a multi-millionaire bank executive while he lectures myself and my peers about a future to which he and the industry he represents caused grave damage,” one unnamed student wrote on a Facebook bulletin board for the members-only group “We Don’t Want a Bank Executive to Speak at Our Commencement,” according to a student blog. The creator of that Facebook group, Daniel Safron-Hon, praised a series of campus protests staged by his classmates after Pandit’s selection was announced Friday afternoon. “We are not in an attack mode,” he said. “I believe this can be resolved. But the ball is now on the dean’s side. If the school ignores the protests, it’s hard to know what will happen.”

Not that anyone at Columbia (full disclosure: I went there) should be shocked, shocked! to find Citigroup traipsing around the Morningside Heights campus. Pandit—who holds four Columbia degrees—sits on the university’s board of trustees. One of his predecessors, Charles O. Prince, is a trustee of the university’s Teachers College. A scan of the bank’s current executive ranks turns up a number of benefactors to the university, alumni, and professors.

It’s hard to deny that the university has a special relationship with Citigroup: Its ATMs (and only its ATMs) are on campus…where your student ID can double as a Citi bank card, if you enrolled for a student account during orientation…which makes it a lot easier to receive your student loans when they’re disbursed by…who else? Citigroup. In fact, Citi (full disclosure: I borrowed from them, grudgingly) has historically been one of the university’s “preferred lenders,” even after Columbia was forced in 2008 to fire a financial aid administrator who’d been on the dole of one of those same lenders. (In a related investigation, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo forced Citigroup to donate millions to a lending-education fund to atone for its student-loan sins.) I knew a lot of classmates who, once graduated, took jobs with Citi or its peer institutions on Wall Street to pay off massive student debts that originated with a Citibank lending arm.

So, bully for the students of SIPA, biting the hand that starves them. Unless, of course, Citigroup starts hiring again. In which case Pandit’s likely to be welcomed with open arms and desperately laser-printed business cards.

LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

payment methods

LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate