Colby students join Diamond protests

‘What Would Lovejoy Do?’
By LANCE TAPLEY  |  October 24, 2012

tji_BobDiamond_main
UNDER FIRE Disgraced Barclays CEO Bob Diamond is hanging on at the helm of Colby’s board of trustees.
Protests aimed at ousting disgraced banker Bob Diamond as chairman of Colby College's board of trustees have expanded beyond Occupy Augusta activists to include a sizeable contingent of students at the Waterville liberal-arts college.

Around 30 sign-holding picketers — half students, half from Occupy Augusta — demonstrated in a heavy drizzle on Saturday morning, October 20, midway between the Bob Diamond-funded Diamond Building (which displays his name in huge golden letters) and the Alumni Center, where the former CEO of the international bank Barclays was presiding over a trustees' meeting.

Security guards at the private institution kept protesters 75 yards from the alumni building, but for the first time trustees agreed to hear student complaints. Two board members, including Richard Uchida, the vice chairman, held a brief meeting with two student protest organizers.

According to sophomore Shelby O'Neill, one of the students in the meeting, the trustees agreed to take up with the entire board the "possibility of a forum" to discuss the Diamond affair, to which students and faculty would be invited.

(At the Phoenix deadline, Colby issued a statement from Uchida saying the two trustees and two students had discussed the possibility of a "panel discussion," among other potential campus "conversations" on issues related to philanthropy. But he said he wasn't encouraging a "school-wide forum" to discuss Diamond's role.)

Student protesters complain that trustees have expressed steadfast support for Diamond — who has given millions to the college — without consulting students or faculty.

Colby students are increasingly interested in the issue, said senior Gordon Fischer, the other student who met with the two trustees. "Now there's a buzz on campus."

And many faculty members, claimed protester Uzoma Orchingwa, a junior, "don't support the decision to keep Bob Diamond on the board."

Diamond, an American based in London, is a Colby alumnus who was forced to resign from Barclays this summer after the bank revealed it had rigged interest rates that, combined with similar actions by other giant banks, may have defrauded millions of people.

Barclays also is enmeshed in tax-avoidance and money-laundering scandals. If Colby keeps Diamond as chairman, protesters say, it will be tacitly approving financial corruption and an unethical role model for students. (See "Banking Scandal Taints Colby Board Chairman," July 13, and "Understanding the Colby College Protests," September 28, both by Lance Tapley.)

But Diamond has his student defenders. Toward the end of the protest, a half-dozen counter-demonstrators showed up with hastily scrawled signs, including "Thank You Bob." In a back-and-forth with the anti-Diamond group, Steve Carroll said, speaking of Diamond, there should be "a distinction between what he's done for Colby and what he's done on Wall Street."

Carroll, a junior, said that, besides endowing buildings, Diamond connects Colby students with the financial world, including a stream of graduates who go to work for Barclays.

A cultural contrast was apparent between the earnest, sober anti-Diamond young men and women and the pro-Diamond group, all young men — several of whom had a strong aroma of alcohol on their breath.

"We just had a beer or two," confessed a 19-year-old sophomore.

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