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Andrew Lohse ‘12 in the NY Daily News

Andrew Lohse ‘12’s crisp prose and radical chic analysis have been a favorite topic in this space. Poster boy for the he-sure-knows-how-to-write portion of the Dartmouth left, his columns in The D have attracted attention and invitations to publish from outside of Hanover, first in the Harvard Crimson, and yesterday in the NY Daily News.

Lohse’s central gripe: too many Ivy grads are heading down to Wall Street to work in America’s world-leading financial services industry. The lure of filthy lucre, he says, is diverting fine minds from jobs that have greater social utility:

Our lives have been boiled down to the bottom line, sans social responsibility. Few, if any, of my peers ever considered becoming professors, journalists, public servants, engineers, scientists or artists. Even many who would become doctors and lawyers opt to go into finance instead because of the high cost of professional school compared with the boundless profits awaiting one in private equity, hedge funds or venture capital. [Emphasis added]

As always, there are problems with the guts of his argument. Let’s start with the words “Few, if any” in the paragraph above. Andrew purports to hear a great sucking sound drawing his classmates down to New York City. What percentage of Dartmouth ‘12’s would you estimate are going to the world of finance, when “Few, if any” can resist its temptations? Almost everybody, right? Say 90+%?

Nope. All cries of alarm aside, Lohse admits in his column that only 36% of his classmates actually participated in corporate recruiting this year. Regrettably, he follows the current fad of replacing research with passion: he could have spoken to the folks over at Career Services and asked where the other 64% of his class will actually work or study after Commencement. Given that not all of the besotted 36% will land jobs at Goldman’s and Bridgewater and Bain (oh my!), we can comfortably estimate that more than two thirds of Lohse’s class is not going anywhere near the canyons of Manhattan.

Is that good news? Depends on your point of view, I guess. Lohse, for one, can’t see anything of social value coming out of financial services:

“… the next generation of bankers and financial “engineers,” the next generation whose minds will sustain the inherently anti-public-good agenda of the elite financial establishment.”

Given the zeitgeist, it seems that he feels no need to support his position with statistics and examples. Do the people who fund America’s companies as start-ups, small businesses, and then as publicly traded entities have no value? Do the firms who make it easy (oftentimes much too easy) to finance the purchase of a home or make a loan for educational or personal use play no role in our prosperity? Do the markets that allow the world’s governments to sell bonds in order to finance social welfare programs and their other activities not contribute to our search for happiness?

Sure Wall Street has its ups and downs. If you are having trouble finding work in the job market, or if you are getting hammered in the stock market, perhaps you, too, have the reflex to lash out. However if you step back and look at the bigger picture, other information comes to the fore. Dartmouth’s endowment dropped 23% in fiscal 2009. Aren’t the market’s awful!?! Dartmouth’s endowment rose 471% between 1991 and 2011 — in investments that helped create productive jobs for tens of millions of people. Well, maybe there is something to be said after all for the financial markets — and for the Dartmouth graduates who work in them?

Addendum: While the Dartmouth Fact Book doesn’t break out data on recent graduating classes, any alum can tell you that corporate recruiting has been a feature of campus life for many decades. In what fields do the College’s undergraduates actually end up?

Employment.jpg

The figures show that there are as many or more doctors and professors/teachers than there are nefarious bankers in the alumni body. Thank heavens!

Addendum: Delving a little deeping into the recruiting process at Dartmouth illustrates that beyond the stereotype of lemmings bound for high finance, a wide range of employers comes to the College. Look at the participants at the 2011 Employer Connections Fair, held in the Hop on September 27-29, or the organizations and companies soliciting resumés in the October 2 and October 16 resumé drops. In addition to the Morgan Stanleys and McKinseys that so worry Andrew Lohse, there was a wide range of companies from the public sector, and industries as varied as software development, marketing, and recruiting — and even line businesses with tangible products (who wants to work at Abercrombie?).

Addendum: A reliably thoughtful Dartblog reader offers an observation:

Also published yesterday in The Dartmouth, Yang Offers Alternative Career path:


“[Venture for America] thinks that too many of our smart and talented people have blindly gotten into finance, consulting and law,” Yang said, “Not enough have chosen to go the business and entrepreneurial route.”

Yang has a plan; Lohse has a complaint. I wonder if Lohse supports what Yang and Venture for America are trying to accomplish?

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