Last Thursday evening, representatives from BC Fossil Free showed up to a Bank of America recruitment event in order to protest the bank’s investment in fossil fuel companies. BC Fossil Free is a coalition of undergraduate and graduate students that formed last year and aims to encourage sustainability and divestment from companies that invest in fossil fuels.
According to Louis Gaglini, the associate director for employer relations at the Career Center, the event was an information session regarding internship opportunities through Bank of America for the summer of 2014. He said in an email that 39 students attended, arriving before 6 p.m., and that the presentation began around 6:10 p.m. Of the five Bank of America representatives presenting, he said that four were BC alumni.
“Fossil Free’s motivation for attending the recruitment event was to stand in solidarity with the actions and beliefs of the RAN network [Rainforest Action Network] who couldn’t be there that night,” said Delia Ridge Creamer, a member of BC Fossil Free and A&S ’16, in an email. “We of BCFF and RAN are angry that Bank of America has invested 6.4 billion in fossil fuel companies in the last two years alone. They claim to be environmentally friendly but have continued to invest in the harmful coal industry, specifically mountain top removal.”
The other BCFF members in attendance were T.J. Buckley, A&S ’16; Bobby Wengronowitz, GSAS ’19; Gloria Kostadinova, A&S ’14; and Mary Popeo, A&S ’14.
According to Ridge Creamer, BCFF planned to enter the event while holding signs, hand the Bank of America workers a letter, and then leave. “Immediately BCPD stopped us from entering the event, claiming it was a BC student event and that if we were planning to disrupt it we weren’t welcome,” she said. The BCFF students said they would wait until a Q&A session to ask any questions they had, and were subsequently admitted.
“The students from BC Fossil Free arrived approximately 10 minutes into the presentation as a group, all wearing BC Fossil Free shirts, and were welcomed to attend the meeting as Boston College students,” Gaglini said. “They were informed at the door of our expectations regarding proper conduct during the meeting.”
After the students entered the presentation, they walked through Higgins 300, distributing flyers, and sat in the front row. “When one of the students took a cell phone photo of the lead Bank of America representative, she asked him not to do so and that he was interrupting the meeting by doing so,” Gaglini said. “She then left the room briefly, informing me that she did so to report the incident.”
Matt Lindquist, CSOM ’15, was in attendance at the information session. “[It] wasn’t a corporate presentation,” he said. “These weren’t corporate CEOs or anyone working in their corporate office.”
According to Ridge Creamer, once the question and answer portion of the presentation started, Wengronowitz asked the Bank of America representatives if they were aware of the money the bank had invested in fossil fuel companies. “The Bank of America employees responded that they deal with many clients who are interested in environmentally friendly investments, and that their head bank in NYC is environmentally friendly,” she said.
Wengronowitz later said in an email that the answer represented a lack of understanding on the urgency of the climate crisis. “Green buildings are great, and we are all for them, but any investments in coal do worse than negate any reduced emissions through efficient buildings, he said. “These investments spell disaster for our generation and all those following.”
Lindquist said that some of the other students in attendance objected to the questions that BC Fossil Free representatives were asking. “Some kid in the back row yells down, ‘Hey, these are questions for corporate bigwigs and CEOs, not you guys,'” he said. “One of the kids in the front row turns around and goes, ‘Well that’s who we want to talk to,’ and it was starting to get kind of tense, and I honestly thought there might be some kind of altercation.”
At that point, Gaglini and the BCPD officers in attendance intervened.
“When the questioning (by the five students) of the other Bank of America representatives repeatedly interrupted their intended discussion about internship opportunities for Boston College students, the five students were, at that time, invited by two representatives of the BCPD and me to leave the meeting,” Gaglini said. “I explained that their conduct was disruptive to the intended business scheduled for the evening. He said that the students left when he and the officers asked them to.
“It was just really not the right forum for them to be asking that,” Lindquist said. “Not the right people, not the right forum, and really was just sort of, honestly, embarrassing to BC kids in general, and was just not appropriate, and not well thought-out at all.”
Wengronowitz and the other BCFF members had a different view of Thursday’s events. “We were removed from the event after having a cordial exchange with bank representatives during their Q and A session,” Wengronowitz said. “We are pleased that students interested in working for Bank of America are now aware of how the bank earns part of its income. We know the job market is poor-we face the same situation-but we also know students have a right to understand the short-term thinking of Bank of America as a potential employer.”