NEW YORK -- Greg Smith is no hero to Ivy League students, not even the ones who have railed against Wall Street over the past several months.
Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs as executive director, and in a March 14 op-ed in the New York Times, took the opportunity to bash the firm for being too concerned with "ripping off clients." In the column, Smith noted that he began his career with the company as an intern from Stanford University, and as an employee, spent a decade recruiting college students to be interns. He concluded that as a recruiter he could no longer tell students Goldman Sachs was a great place to work.
"I hope he isn't expecting any warm and fuzzy messages of support from all the students that he no longer has to look in the eye," Fenna Krienen, a graduate student at Harvard University, told The Huffington Post. "Did it really take him nearly 12 years to realize that his recruitment efforts helped induct a new generation of I-bankers into his repugnant, socially harmful banking enterprise?"
Krienen was involved in Occupy Harvard's protest against Goldman Sachs' recruiting efforts on campus, eventually causing Goldman to cancel its visit to Harvard. Yet, Smith gets no love from Krienen for publicly scolding a firm that is a central villain in the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"I would only say that it's a pity Mr. Smith squandered his New York Times op-ed mewing about his love for the Goldman culture-of-yore," Krienen added, "instead of providing us with a truly useful insider perspective of what exactly went into Goldman's 'secret sauce' in the years leading up to the 2008 meltdown."
Vasant Ramachandran, a Stanford student, said he questioned why Smith spent 12 years working his way up at Goldman Sachs and only spoke out after the firm became an easy target in the media.
"A hero or whistleblower reveals new information about something he feels is wrong when there is still time to stop it, at great social and personal cost to himself," Ramachandran said. "Mr. Smith reveals his discomfort with Goldman after he has reaped every benefit possible for 12 years and after everything that he says has already been said or established beyond the point of recovery."
There also were protests against Wall Street recruitment at Ivy League schools Cornell, Yale, Princeton and Smith's alma mater, Stanford.
Financial firms like Goldman Sachs currently rank well below places like Disney and Google as desired employers among young professionals. However, Goldman is still in the top five places MBA students want to work, according to employer branding firm Universeum's annual surveys.
Yet, it's not just the Occupy protesters actively discouraging graduates from working on Wall Street.
Teryn Norris spurred the campaign, Stop the Brain Drain, with his op-ed in the Stanford Daily that opposed Wall Street recruitment at top colleges.
Norris, a Truman Scholar at Stanford who founded Americans for Energy Leadership, said Smith's op-ed should serve as a "wake-up call" to America's top universities that ship graduates off to Wall Street firms.
"If our generation is going to compete and solve the challenges of our time," Norris said, "we need more of our top talent going into science, engineering, entrepreneurship, and public service."
The same week that Smith's op-ed ran, a panel about steering college graduates away from careers in Wall Street as held at the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. One of the panelists, Chris Wiggins, associate professor of applied mathematics at Columbia University, told HuffPost he was struck that after 12 years, it was working with interns that exceeded Smith's suspension of disbelief.
"Students in general haven't yet been inculcated into the Goldman Sachs reality distortion field, and are more likely to flinch when someone says, for example, that Goldman Sachs is 'doing God's work,'" Wiggins said. "In my experience, students today are particularly willing to tell you when something smells off, or when they think you're doing it wrong."
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