Op-ed: Stop Wall Street recruitment on college campuses

A job seeker looks at a bulletin board with job listings at the Career Link Center One Stop job center in San Francisco, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Occupy Wall Street moves to academia tomorrow -- there are rallies planned for at least 90 college campuses tomorrow, including one at Stanford University.

Stanford senior Teryn Norris isn't going to be among the marchers, but he's got an opinion Wall Street and higher education that he set out in The Stanford Daily yesterday, under the headline, "Stop the Wall Street Recruitment." That'd be on college campuses.

Teryn, good to have you with us.

Teryn Norris: Thanks for having me.

Ryssdal: So I'll tell you, when I read this today, my immediate thought was recruiting by ROTC that some schools have had, the ban on the CIA. Is that what you want: no financial institution recruitment at Stanford and other schools?

Norris: No. We're not calling for a complete ban on financial institutions. And really, we recognize that the United States needs a strong financial sector, we realize that some of these jobs are productive. What we're extremely concerned about is the over-supply of some of America's top talent to many of these firms -- and firms that helped create the conditions for a Great Recession, which has extremely blighted the lives for millions of Americans.

Ryssdal: How do you see that playing out on the Stanford campus? I mean, you're a senior, you're in the job market. Do you go down to the counseling center and see the fliers up?

Norris: Yeah, sure. There's a very strong emphasis with the career development center here and across elite universities across the country to emphasize finance and management consulting. What we're especially concerned about is the finance side. But, just to give you an example: We get emails every single week announcing different recruitment events, and I'd say 50-75 percent of those emails are promoting large, wealthy banks in the United States. What we're concerned about is an over-supply and an over-emphasis on institutions that aren't actually necessarily contributing to social and economic productivity in this country.

Ryssdal: You say at the beginning of this op-ed in The Stanford Daily, "our nation's top universities remain the primary training and recruiting grounds for these same reckless institutions." That, of course, would be the banks. Don't we want smart people working in the banks?

Norris: Sure, we do want smart people. What we don't want is 20-30 percent of, say, Harvard's graduates going to work for these banks. America, right now, faces enormous challenges. We need our top talent focused on solving those problems. Instead of going to many of these banks, which serve to make rich people richer, let's figure out how to create incentives for these undergraduates to go into these other career tracks. I think a great model we've seen recently is that a lot of the top law schools in the country are offering loan-forgiveness programs for law school graduates that want to go into public service. We need to have a serious conversation about what is actually a moral and ethical thing for some of the most privileged members of society to be doing with their education and their careers.

Ryssdal: Teryn Norris -- his piece with the title "Stop the Wall Street recruitment" was in The Stanford Daily yesterday. Teryn, thanks a lot.

Norris: Thanks a lot.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Tom makes very good points. In particular he is right that preaching against elite universities' promotion of wealthy banks is too vague. It would be more effective for Teryn to promote careers that address specific areas like housing advocacy, consumer empowerment, and as Tom mentions, education reform targeting both teachers' salaries and college expense.

With respect, Teryn seems to be confusing supply with demand here. The fact that recruiting lists are dominated by banks is not, as he says, indicative of "oversupply". These banks are there because they are looking to hire people, not simply because there are many college seniors looking to be hired. And quite frankly, why is it worthwhile for this movement to be protesting a process that helps college students find jobs? After all, isn't one of main shared complaints for many of the "99%" how hard it's to find a job after college?

If Teryn and others are really concerned about the number of fine brains who are passing up "socially beneficial" careers in favor of Wall St., the first problem is making sure that these socially beneficial careers exist and that they provide enough of a return to make future bankers think twice. Reforming the teaching profession to me sounds like a good place to start. It might also help a little bit if college weren't so outrageously expensive to begin with, so that students didn't feel they needed to seek high-paying careers afterwards just to justify the expense.

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