OCS & Its Corporate Partners
by Heather Stratton
presence is hardly remarkable at NYU or at any other university;
from the products sold in our bookstore to the companies with
which many of our trustees are associated, it seems impossible
to avoid the influence of large multinationals. So the Office
of Career Services Corporate Partners program
should not be especially shocking.
Through these corporate partnerships, each of the thirteen companies
provides a financial donation, which is spent directly on student
programs in OCS. In exchange, OCS features the companies on its
website and in the office, provides information regarding employment
or networking opportunities to students who have expressed interest.
According to Trudy Steinfeld, director of OCS, each corporation
hires many NYU students every year, and is given priority over
other employers in choosing recruitment dates on campus.
On the surface, this arrangement appears advantageous for everyone.
Interested students are provided with the resources for connecting
with large, financially successful, and well-known companies;
the corporations themselves gain a means of communication with
students who are potential employees.
However, some of these institutions labor and environmental
practices suggest that the partnership is not quite as universally
beneficial as it may seem.
For example, perhaps pharmaceutical and cosmetic giant Johnson
& Johnson has extra money to spend on campus outreach because,
following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), it cut hundreds of jobs in Texas and moved its production
facilities across the border to an export processing zone in Juarez,
Mexico, despite an agreement to increase existing job levels in
the U.S., according to Public Citizens Global Trade Watch.
The average wage in Juarezs maquiladora district is US$1.25/h,
well below the local living wage standard, according to a report
by The Multinational Monitor.
In addition to funding student programs in OCS, corporate partner
Citigroup is a leading financier of the fossil fuel, coal, and
logging industries, all of which, according to the Rainforest
Action Network, contribute to global warming. Citi, the worlds
largest financial institution, has also been accused of predatory,
high- interest lending practices in lower income communities as
well as in developing countries, according to the Inner City Press.
At least two of OCS Corporate Partners, Goldman Sachs and
Salomon Smith Barney (a subsidiary of Citigroup) are involved
in funding private prisons, a controversial issue that is gaining
in significance on campus with the Lehman Brothers campaign (see
page 5). According to The Multinational Monitor, Goldman Sachs
writes between $2 and $3 billion in prison construction bonds
every year. And according to In These Times, Salomon Smith Barney
underwrites Wackenhut Corrections, a private prison corporation
which has been named by the AFL-CIO as one of the countrys
leading union-busting companies.
These abuses of corporate power prompt questioning of NYUs
responsibility to the community and to the world. Because information
regarding NYUs investments and endowments is not available
to students, we have no means of understanding the extent to which
NYU is complicit in corporate activities. Should a private
university in the public interest be associating itself
with corporations whose dedication to public service is dubious
at best and antagonistic at worst? Is OCS allowing these destructive
companies to buy access to students? Should we not expect better
from our university?
However, to borrow a line from singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco,
Generally my generation wouldnt dream of working for
the man... Trouble is, youve got to have an alternate plan.
We all have to work somewhere, and maybe in the end well
all sell out and find ourselves drowning in a sea of cubicles,
cowering with insecurity while wondering when well be laid
off so that the executives stock options will inflate, and
maybe remembering a time when our dreams werent limited
to the acquisition of money.
But maybe, instead, well refuse to make profits at the expense
of others pain and misfortune; maybe well decide that
our planet and our fellow human beings are more important than
the luxuries that working for these destructive corporations could
bring to our lives. We can start by understanding that it is our
responsibility to demand social responsibility from our university
and from the institutions with which it is involved.