/

Yes, Swarthmore should be having fireside chats with Goldman Sachs

6 mins read

This is a response piece to “Should Swarthmore Really Be Having Fireside Chats With Goldman Sachs?” 

It’s common for virtue-signaling students to throw shade at finance, investment banking, and other related fields. Advocating for the college to restrict these events is just the latest reminder of how far the practice has come at this college.

Banishing fireside chats with investment and consulting firms will not protect students from the evils of these industries. It won’t even mean that the percentage of students pursuing jobs in these fields will be reduced. Rather, it will further ensure that these fields continue to be a closed party for the wealthy kids. Moreover, preventing or under-promoting recruitment events will not stop students born into wealth from going into investment banking. Those students already have inside tracks to jobs at Goldman Sachs.

These fireside chats are an opportunity for underrepresented students to get their feet in the door. It is an opportunity for them to shine in front of executives at these firms. Preventing such events will only add to the exclusivity that these fields are marred with. Swarthmore students need access to more, not less, of these events to make themselves visible to these firms.

Closing off potential career options purely on the basis of ethical concerns is a privilege that low-income students often do not have. Given how sought-after consultants and investment bankers from top firms like McKinsey and Goldman Sachs are on the job market, it is no surprise that these firms are popular among students looking to maximize their earning potential. Not everyone has the means to put on a superhero cape and save society. Prioritizing breaking your own cycle of poverty is no deal with the devil.

As evidenced by Swarthmore’s lagging rate in sending students to investment banking, we don’t have an issue with too many students going into finance. Given the significant student interest, it is likely the number of students heading into the field will continue to hover around 12 percent — even if the college does not promote such events.

One of the college’s main responsibilities to its students is to disseminate opportunities equally, given its focus on supporting students from all walks of life. Precluding career opportunities based on an arbitrary and frankly hypocritical (just go look at the sources of our endowment) moral compass for its students would be grossly overstepping its boundaries. Let’s not give the administration another means to unilaterally decide what’s best for students. 

The solution here is not to shush the finance talk. Doing that would only further diminish the limited pool of recruitment opportunities on campus. Rather, the way forward is to bring in resources and equitably spread knowledge of other professions alongside investment banking and finance. To do this, Career Services needs to be held to a higher standard. 

We wouldn’t be having this conversation about protecting students from the evils of finance if there were sufficient recruitment from other industries as well. In fact, this fireside chat was not even organized by Career Services; it was organized by a student who interned at Goldman Sachs this past summer. Many similar information and recruitment sessions are organized by student clubs like 180 Degrees Consulting and Redefine Her Street, not Career Services.

A simple cost-benefit analysis is especially helpful in realizing the stakes here. What do we gain from turning down Goldman Sachs? Perhaps a moral victory over the evil investment banking and finance empire and an honorary badge of righteousness. But at what cost? Well for one, these fields are going to continue on — with or without Swarthmore recruits — and students will only miss out on these valuable (and scarce) networking opportunities.

It is hard enough to find jobs as it is. Getting even one offer in today’s ultra-competitive environment is a big relief. To turn down lucrative offers over ethical concerns is not something most students can afford. We cannot afford to sit on our high horse and poo-poo careers we deem to be unethical.

For some students, losing out on a lucrative job may mean being riddled with student debt the rest of their lives. For international students, it may mean having to leave the U.S. due to not being able to find an employer willing to sponsor a work visa. Given their already limited pool of potential employers and a litany of laws they must adhere to while in the U.S., being picky is not a luxury international students can afford. It is often the big firms who hire international students and not everyone’s favorite non-profits. 

Making collective judgements on labor-supply decisions that are inherently individualistic is a slippery slope that we should all avoid. There are better ways of realizing our mission of positively impacting the world than to purge Swarthmore of harmless fireside chats with Goldman Sachs.

Sameer Halepoto

Hi! I’m a third-year student majoring in Economics with a minor in Computer Science. Besides writing for the Phoenix, I am the co-president of 180 Degrees Consulting and treasurer of the club squash team!

13 Comments

  1. All about first-gen bipoc gender minorities until it’s opportunities we want :/ Keep the fireside chats coming, I had class last time!

  2. I’m sorry but I just don’t think that not wanting agents of capital to recruit on campus is “virtue signaling.” Virtue signaling involves making overtures to make a show of how morally righteous you are. Not wanting investment banks and consulting firms who help fortune 500 companies, many of which are actively destroying the world or engaging in otherwise extremely unethical behavior, maximize their profit at all costs is rooted in a substantive grievance with those firms, not just a surface-level and performative dislike of them.

    Beyond that, l don’t think it’s revolutionary to make it easier for low income kids at an elite university to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary at big banks and firms. To me, “ending the cycle of poverty” really only applies on a systemic level, where the institutional barriers that prevent low income people and minorities from feeding their families, finding stable housing, and giving their kids a quality education are removed, uplifting everyone. I think it’s great if a low income student can get rich or change their family’s lives after graduation. But that student isn’t really doing anything for anyone but themselves and their folks. That student is simply part of a small, privileged group who just so happened to get lucky enough to gain admission to an extremely selective school where places like Goldman bother to recruit. But what about other people from the same low income and underrepresented backgrounds as these swarthmore grads who you feel deserve the chance to work at big banks? Do the people who work at consulting firm client companies and are victims of wage theft, live in countries that are being destabilized by US corporate power, or those (who are disproportionately black) that lost their homes 13 years ago due to subprime loans that were encouraged by the very banks that you’re saying are tools of liberation for low income students benefit when poor and minority swarthmoreans get the chance to work in the upper echelons of corporate america?

    The purpose of elite schools like ours is to reproduce elites, including elites who are black, brown, and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. That’s the power in a swarthmore education, and while I understand if you use that power to join a consulting group so that you can provide a wealthy lifestyle for you and your family, I’m not going to pretend like it’s a totally valid choice made out of necessity or one that’s exempt from criticism. Like it or not, it’s just not the most ethical line of work in the world, and people are right to call that out in my opinion.

    • Completely agree with this. I don’t see how it’s ethically better in any way for underrepresented students to be getting these jobs when the negative impact on the world they inflict will be exactly the same as that coming from wealthy white men. This entire op-ed is pretty much the “girlboss” mentality (extrapolated for other underrepresented groups) in action and makes the assumption that historically underrepresented groups, coming from a name-brand school like Swarthmore no less, somehow deserve a free pass to cause untold suffering for personal gain. I would respect Swatties who go to work for like Goldy way more if they stopped using social justice buzzwords (“marginalized!” “underrepresented!”) to justify greasing the gears of the capitalist machine and just admitted they want to be rich and have their golden retrievers and white picket fences.

      Crushing others underneath the tires of the capitalist machine so that you can get better traction is not “breaking the cycle of poverty.” It’s personal gain for personal gain’s sake, especially when there are (contrary to popular belief) good-paying jobs that AREN’T just working for whatever big bank offers the most for your soul. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

  3. if you want to pursue individual wealth and power at the expense of other people go ahead, but why does the school need to sponsor it? if you want to be exploited (https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/04/goldman-sachs-former-interns-abuse-suit-moves-forward) by a company who is widely known to be involved in multiple national debt crisis among many other things which you can literally research for yourself by typing the firms name into any reputable national news website’s search engine, for the benefit of rich people go ahead but that should be on you, not endorsed by swarthmore college.

  4. Its important to emphasize the point the authors makes about international students. The pool of jobs we can get is extremely limited because of our visa status. The biggest employers of international students are big tech/Finance/consulting companies and that’s one of the reasons so many of us end up applying to them. I’d really like to hear from people what alternatives would they suggest to international students who have to find a job asap after graduation or else they would be forced to go back to their home countries.

    Also, the fireside chats are the only way we can make the invite more diverse people into consulting/finance jobs. International students dont have the same level of referrals/connection at these firms as rich white kids may have.

    • If you’re an international student and have to get a consulting job at a data analytics place like FICO, bain/mckinsey/BCG, or a finance job at a major commercial and or investment bank like wells fargo or goldman, i’m sorry that that’s the only job you could get in the US; that’s horrible. But i just…he still have to be honest about the effect these institutions are having on the world. My problem is when we try to turn it into a social justice solution when it’s really ultimate an issue of self interest. That’s not to say that international students who have to got to those places are selfish or only interested in themselves, but in terms on liberation, the only people benefiting are those who are getting visas. I’ll never know what it’s like to be an international student with limited options, but I am a member of an ethnic group who essentially had their potential to buy a home, build savings, and have decent credit (which you need to get basically anything) destroyed by big banks and firms like mckinsey in 2008 at a rate many times higher than other ethnic groups. It’s just not ethical work a lot of the time. I’m sorry.

      In this context, the institutions that bought up subprime mortgages, perpetuate the racial lending and wealth gaps, engage in insider trading, and involve themselves in foreign debt crises are not tools of liberation for anyone but people in your position, who potentially get to stay in the US and draw six-figure salaries. I understand if that’s the path you have to take, but you should understand and accept that these institutions still cause great harm domestically and abroad.

      It doesn’t matter if rich white kids have more of a chance to work there in my eyes, because adding international students and poor/minority analysts to big firms changes absolutely nothing about how the financial system works. Adding brown and black and non-american faces to an unethical and oppressive structure doesn’t automatically make those structures more equitable or egalitarian. It’s just splashing a little bit of color onto them.

  5. The argument for international students gets it exactly backwards. The ultimate reason that finance and similar jobs are often the only path for us is because our very presence here is a political tool for spreading US propaganda and implicating us in those oppressive structures (often deployed against our home countries). You’ve assumed the conclusion and used it to justify the premises, now under the banner of social justice and equitable opportunity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The Phoenix