Shame on you, Sonoma State, where I've taught humanities for the last four years. Your administration plans to award the notorious Wall Street bankster Sandy Weill an honorary doctorate at its May 12 graduation. This disgraces SSU.
Weill was the CEO of Citigroup, the largest of the "too big to fail" banks bailed out by taxpayers. A major purveyor of toxic mortgages, Citigroup required $45 billion in government investment and a $300 billion guarantee of its bad assets to avoid bankruptcy. Citigroup once paid a $3 billion fine for involvement in the Enron scandal. When Gov. Jerry Brown was California attorney general, he wrote that Citigroup "knowingly stole from its customers, mostly poor people and the recently deceased."
And yet Sandy Weill is getting an honorary degree for donating $12 million to SSU last year to finish its Green Music Center.
An article by editor Robert Scheer in the April 19 issue of The Nation describes Weill as a "hustler who led the successful lobbying to reverse the Glass-Steagall law" in 1999. Enacted after the Great Depression to protect us from the kind of economic collapse we are now experiencing, Glass-Steagall was a barrier between investment and commercial banks. Weill shattered it. Up went Weill's fortunes and the 1% he represents; down went the 99%.
Shortly before the 2008 crash, Weill retired. The New York Times headline said it all: "Laughing All the Way from the Bank."
Protests against Weill's purchased degree have already begun. On April 27, activists passed out research on Weill at the GMC, holding a sign describing him as "King of the Subprime Mortgage—Architect of the Great Recession."
Though officially known as the Green Music Center, some are already calling it the Weill Music Center. He seems to be pulling the strings on the project and making his own laws, just as he and his corporations did with the federal government. Weill and Citigroup justify the popular Occupy chant "Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out."
Shepherd Bliss teaches college, farms in Sebastopol, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Open Mic is a weekly feature in the Bohemian. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write email@example.com.