Three weeks ago, we suggested that Occupy Princeton should drop out of Princeton. Because it’s a little silly to protest Wall Street—or the present economic order, or income inequality, and so on—if you attend a school which both perpetuates all of those things and benefits from them. A school which, arguably, is less a university than a finishing school for bankers. (And which employs Jeffrey Eugenides and Joyce Carol Oates for the same reason Goldman Sachs installed a Franz Ackerman mural in the lobby of its New York headquarters.)
Here’s how one commenter answered:
No. That would be dumb. That’s like saying “If you don’t want Romney for president you should totally just leave the country if he’s elected.”
It’s like retreating. Giving up! White-flagging! Total pussy move.
It’s totally OK for people to criticize something they’re part of if they’re asking it to change for the better and they themselves are working to be better.
Also there’s SO much more to Princeton than its stereotypical role as a feeder school to Wall Street (and no I’m not one of the protestors or a conservative). It offers one of the best educations in the nation, exceptional resources for undergraduates, more money per capita than any other educational institution in the US (I got to study in Italy over the summer for almost nothing!)
This place is giving me the credentials I need to go out and get a job, and hopefully a job that I can use to actually make some change in the country. More of a change than I could make by transferring to Hamilton College [Ed: we suggested Hampshire College!] in protest. Honestly, anyone who would transfer from Princeton in protest of the select few assholes who are obsessed with making it big on Wall Street would be an idiot and I would never take them seriously anyway.
First, Princeton’s “role as a feeder school to Wall Street” is not “stereotypical.” In 2011, 36% of Princeton grads went into finance. In 2006, it was nearly 50%. These are not “a few select assholes.” When between a third and half your classmates enter the financial industry, it’s almost kind of generous to call your school a “feeder school for Wall Street.” There are several far worse and more accurate epithets to choose from.
Second, nobody doubts that Princeton is wonderful. (Except everyone at Yale.) Nobody questions that it provides an excellent education. Everybody is aware that Princeton lavishes money and resources on its undergraduates! But it’s dishonest to claim that you can benefit from Princeton without benefitting from Wall Street capital. All of those bulging endowment dollars—all of those little things which make your life easier—come from the generous donations of hedge fund managers, venture capitalists, and Goldman VPs.
Princeton’s subtle encouragement to enter finance (a legitimate grievance of Occupy Princeton!) is the secret sauce which makes those study-abroad trips possible. It’s what makes Princeton’s peerless financial aid program possible. But having “more money per capita than anything other educational institution in the US” requires Princeton to educate, and graduate, a lot of people who will make a lot of money. Where else, except finance, can the smart but inexperienced go to make bank, and easily? (Ask Ezra Klein!)
And yet, for Occupy Princeton—for a lot of people—the financial industry has corrupted the Ivy League. This is wrong. The financial industry basically made the Ivy League what it is.
We’re still curious if you, IvyGate commenters, think it’s possible to maintain what makes Princeton Princeton, Harvard Harvard, Dartmouth Dartmouth, and so on, without the huge sums of money necessary to do so. That would seem to answer the question of whether you can attend Princeton and still fight the system that funds it.