Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Interview: Campusing and the culture of greed

This post was prompted by a Facebook post made by one of my doctoral advisees Rahul Rastogi. The post depicted the ways in which a group of students occupied a Recruitment session held by Goldman Sachs at Princeton University.

The occupation of the Goldman Sachs recruitment session, similar to many such occupations happening across the US, was innovative in its ability to draw our attention to the interplays of corruption and greed on college campuses, and in raising some fundamental questions about practices such as corporate recruitment on our college and university campuses.

Universities and colleges are often the breeding grounds for the unethical practices that are embodied in the corporate cultures of organizations like Goldman Sachs, J P Morgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers. However, on many college and university campuses, and particularly among the elite students of elite MBA programs of these universities and colleges, for the longest time, these were the most coveted jobs. So what breeds in students the desire for fundamentally unethical organizations such as Goldman Sachs, J P Morgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers. Is it the lack of knowledge? Is it the basic absence of a moral/ethical compass among these students? Or is it some combination of both?

I believe the ignorance that is typically evident among the MBA types who typically have not for instance read up on the (unethical aspects of) corporate practices of Goldman Sachs is also connected to the basic absence of a moral/ethical compass among these students. Many of these students grow up on the myth that everyone has access to basic resources, and one's ability to do well in life is tied to how much God-gifted talent they have (you can see Ayn Rand at work early on). Their parents feed them the notion from early on that as long as they take care of themselves, the world will operate just fine. I have heard articulations such as "The poor are poor because they are lazy," or "There are thousands of beggars that you come across everyday in India. You can't possibly ask me to feel compassion for each one of them" among this prototype.

So these students, finding their way into elite MBA programs, think of themselves as the children of God. They are the chosen few; the ones that have the brains and the ability to make it big. Their king-size egos are further fed by the variety of business school tools such as case studies, mock interviews, group discussions etc., where the more arrogant and pompous you are, the greater your reward and likelihood of getting ahead.The entitlement then works powerfully in subverting the capacity to ask critical questions or to interrogate the logic through which campus interviews, job talks, recruitment efforts are organized. Being critical would also mean that the MBA types would also need to interrogate the fundamental tenets of entitlement upon which their entire education has been constituted. Being critical would mean that we ask these students to start questioning the very articulations of greed that have constituted their life goals.

For college and university campuses to start engaging in questions about the values embodied in the organizations they desire to work for, courses on critical empowerment need to be offered not simply in the Liberal Arts but in the sciences, engineering, and management programs. Concepts such as transparency, accountability, and reflexivity need to be turned into everyday concepts that can be engaged in the everyday practices of living among our students. And most importantly, rather than turning our students into privileged minions of corporations without backbones, we need to emphasize the ways in which we can teach them to interrogate their privilege and put this privilege to use in actively imagining and creating a just world.

1 comment:

Devalina said...

but mohan, how inconvenient-- If they do these things, and know these things, how in the world will they ever do their jobs?
Its exactly the same here, as you know. Only in the context you are talking about they are just trying to be corporate, here they are trying to be corporate AND american. Bangla has a word for it: jogakhichuri. I think thats untranslatable :)