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.