It is true that the Princeton students of today traditionally become the Goldman partners of tomorrow, but chanting at them repetitively only serves to alienate them, not to change their minds. It is neither prudent nor effective to attempt to change the culture of smoking cigarettes by chanting at a Phillip Morris info session or end deforestation by interrupting a Weyerhaeuser recruiting trip. Ultimately, the attendees of info-sessions are out there to look for jobs, not screw the universe.
As mentioned in Lewis’ article, Goldman Sachs has been forced to cancel its recruiting trips to both Harvard and Brown. Is that reform, or positive, lasting change? The only ones significantly inconvenienced are fellow classmates who have the right to apply for employment anywhere. After all, it is not a crime to be in the 1 percent; it is only a crime to forget the needs of the 99.
Additionally, there are many jobs at Goldman that had no bearing on the financial meltdown. Financial firms hire economists, analysts, researchers, investors and statisticians that do exactly as their titles suggest. Goldman Sachs may have done bad things, but Goldman Sachs is not bad. I am not defending the devious actions taken by large financial firms, or the lack of protective regulatory or fiscal policy to monitor and restrict those firms. But driving Goldman Sachs recruiters — hardly the folks in senior management — off campus and annoying job-seeking classmates doesn’t seem the way to catalyze change.
What is striking and arguably successful about the New York and Washington, D.C. Occupy movements is that the participants were sitting at the doorsteps of power. It is in the offices of Wall Street skyscrapers and the marbled halls of the U.S. Capitol that change is actually made and the institutions and governing bodies can be directly influenced. I am not suggesting the Princeton students take their Outdoor Action sleeping bags and pitch tents three hours south on a lawn in Washington. That is neither practical nor the most effective use of our time. What may be productive, however, is the engagement of our student body in the political process.
America is in the throes of its election season. Our geographic neighbors Pennsylvania and New York hold their primaries in April, during our school year. The vehicle for significant, tangible change has pulled up to our doorstep. Mitt Romney’s eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses indicates a competitive race in which our agency could prove incredibly useful. Which set of candidates one believes will positively change the status quo is a matter for serious debate and ought to be the conversation on the tip of every Princetonian’s tongue. Becoming more politically engaged and discussing fiscal policy, I believe, is the way to shift the dialogue and create the change sought after by the Occupy contingency. I see this as a way to alter, and break through our [in]famous complacency. This is not to say that Washington is exclusively at fault for New York’s behavior — both financiers and policy makers are to blame for their actions — but the two are inextricably tied and an opening for change right now lies in the political arena. Washington policy dictates much of what is allowed on Wall Street, and it was Washington’s repeal of legislation (see the Glass-Steagall Act) that is in part to blame for the crisis.
YouTube videos of chants might get media coverage, but it is a facade that works to assuage our guilt about Princeton student’s apathy. If we really want to make a difference, what ought to be on the forefront of everyone’s minds is the impending political race. The membership of the entire House, one third of the Senate, eleven gubernatorial seats, many state legislatures and the leader of the free world are all teetering on the edge of their now-uncertain claims to power. Ways Princeton students can really affect change include getting involved in campaigns, working on getting out the vote, voting themselves and raising money for candidates.
Aaron Applbaum is a sophomore from Oakland, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/01/09/29713/