A couple weeks ago we mentioned the fact that Jamie Dimon would be Syracuse University's commencement speaker this May. This was prior to the Orangemen being knocked out of the tournament and at the time we warned that as James Dimon only addressed champions, they'd best not fuck things up. As you know, that's exactly what they did. And yet, being the big-hearted, strapping CEO he is, Dimon did not back out of the gig, figuring he'd fill his quota for charity cases for the year. This afternoon we received some interesting info. Namely that the "Cuse" is "concerned" about hosting Jamie. That's right. THEY are worried about having HIM. Which, I don't have to tell you, is pretty fucking galling. The only person who should be reevaluating this situation is JD. Why don't you kids win something and then you can start "expressing your concerns."
Subject: Message From Chancellor Nancy Cantor
April 9, 2010
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
As we approach commencement, there have been concerns expressed over the choice of Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, as this year’s commencement speaker. In my experience, virtually every commencement speaker arouses a broad array of reactions, in line with the diversity of interests, opinions, and passions on a university campus, though I understand that in this economic climate the concerns may be especially acute.
In fact, it is rare that a university is able to bring a speaker with a birds-eye view of, and extensive on-the-ground experience with, a major global challenge, and that was in the forefront of my mind as I made my selection this year. Every year, a committee of Student Marshals and Student Trustee Representatives provides me with a long list of potential speakers, recognizing that securing a commencement speaker is not an easy task, and they typically also give me a more selective top list. I am very pleased that this year’s speaker once again comes from that shorter top list.
Indeed, this year’s commencement speaker brings a unique perspective from the field of business -- a discipline that has not been represented by a University commencement speaker in at least 20 years. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the selection, there is no question that Mr. Dimon is playing a key role, front and center in addressing one of, if not the major global challenge(s) of our day. Unquestionably, this is a special choice for those graduates with interests in business and finance, though interestingly the reach of a global financial services company extends across many different disciplines at Syracuse – including technologists, marketers, psychologists, designers – to name only a few who may find their way into the business and finance sector. Even more relevant, in my view, Mr. Dimon can speak with widely recognized authority to issues that inevitably will shape the landscape of opportunity and prosperity for all of our graduates, no matter their field or geographical location or perspective on the world.
Jamie Dimon is lauded not only for his vast experience and accomplished leadership in a wide-ranging career in banking, and his active engagement of broad economic issues nationally and around the world, but also for his commitment to education and innovation. At Syracuse, we have seen the leadership he shows, as he endorsed the far-reaching collaboration in Global Enterprise Technology between SU and the technology leaders at JPMorgan Chase, which has been brought to life with our faculty and students in a new curriculum, research program, and technology center at Syracuse. Beyond our campus, millions of people all around the world recognize that Jamie Dimon is a leader whose voice is timely and seasoned, no matter whether one agrees or disagrees, reveres or rejects, his specific economic policies, corporate actions, or leadership approach. He, too, is a star with a broad reach.
Once again, I respect and value the array of reactions to this choice of speaker, even as I hope that we can come together and benefit from hearing from a world-renowned business leader located in the center of one of the world’s most influential companies, in an industry that simply has to be part of the solution, though not the only part, to a path toward economic stability for our nation and for all nations and peoples world-wide.
UPDATE: This is what preceded the email:
About 30 students gathered in Schine Student Center’s Panasci Lounge on Wednesday to form a plan of action to remove JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon as the 2010 commencement speaker. “When we feel wronged, we have the idea that we can raise up,” said Ashley Owens, one of the meeting’s leaders and a senior magazine journalism and geography major, before the meeting. “We need to be shown that there’s a vehicle with which to do so.”
Suggestions for how to change the commencement speaker included staging a protest, contacting media outlets such as The New York Times for national publicity, writing a letter to Dimon asking him to step down, and contacting faculty and staff members who are also angry with the commencement speaker choice. The students broke into groups to work on each plan. Adrienne Garcia spoke for the group focused on campus mobilization, including the Take Back Commencement rally. In addition to the rally, the group discussed acting in unison at least once a week until commencement. Other ideas included holding hands around the administration building when the chancellor and others are leaving work.
The group also suggested holding a vigil for all students struggling to pay for college. After the vigil, the group wants students to walk toward the administration building and snap wooden pencils on the ground. “We want to have a vigil for everyone who had to drop out and everyone across America who is suffering from what JPMorgan represents,” Garcia said. The group focused on finding a new speaker is considering finding someone who has been affected or wronged by JPMorgan
While the group may go around the administration and directly to Dimon, it plans to make the students’ discontent so well known that the administration cannot ignore it, she said. “The idea is to cause so much of a ruckus that they’re embarrassed to have him speak here,” she said.