Reedies Should Hold One Another Accountable in the Career Search: Maybe We Can Start with the Blackstone Group

Reed’s renowned leftism—“the most liberal college in the country” the Atlantic propounded—has year after year shown its force on campus. Just in the last few years alone, Reedies have fundamentally changed the college’s core curriculum, pressured the Board to divest from fossil fuels, and demanded the firing of a recently exposed racist  and tenured professor, Paul Currie, overall displaying Reed’s student body as one with the ability to act en masse and hold its members accountable. Students broadly expect one another to help make Reed a better, more just place. But what about after Reed? What, realistically, can we expect of each other in the wider, more diffuse field of injustice and complicity that is the outside world? Where doing “the right thing” costs more than missing a class? Reed, after all, is a pedagogical institution, not a persistently disappointing utopia. As such, we should probably start asking why it produces so many sell-outs. 

According to the Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR), over 25% of Reed graduates go into what’s called “Business/Industry”, dwarfing the aggregate of “Health Care”, “Arts & Communication”, and “Community Service” careers, which amounts to 8%. Among the most frequent employers of graduates are Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. This isn’t in itself outrageous. “Business/Industry” is a rather vague category, and surely some of these jobs are a net positive for society. Moreover, these are extremely morally complicated questions. (Can a good leftist work for Amazon? Well, I don’t know, will they donate 75% of their salary? Are they salting their workplace? Are they “destroying the system from the inside”?) 

The problem is that the political nature of our impending career decisions is neglected in Reed’s discourse and institutions. Instead, the student body broadly treats what one chooses to do after Reed as private, as outside the jurisdiction of social judgment and accountability. This is a particular failure of Reed. We collectively face one of the most important series of choices a person can make, and we’re hardly helping each other. The CLBR, moreover, is so dead-set on students “making BANK”, it has organized a networking event with likely the most malevolent Fortune 500 company you haven’t heard of. 

On October 3rd, CLBR is hosting a “Blackstone Info Session”, with Blackstone VP and Reed graduate, Tom Weaver. Thus far, this is one of only two events on the Center’s calendar. Here is a golden opportunity to “sell-out”, though the CLBR won’t tell you that. 

The CLBR description of the event includes an uncited statement taken directly from the company website. It reads: 

Blackstone is the world’s largest alternative asset manager. We seek to create positive economic impact and long-term value for our investors, the companies we invest in, and the communities in which we work. We do this by using extraordinary people and flexible capital to help companies solve problems. 

This quite simply doesn’t paint the whole picture. The Blackstone Group is a mammoth private equity group which profited off the housing crisis of 2007-2008 by purchasing billions of dollars of foreclosed single family homes, disproportionately owned by Black and Brown families, and then renting them out, becoming in the process America’s largest and cruelest landlord. Blackstone should not get away with telling college students that they “create positive economic impact” in the communities they work in—it’s a boldfaced lie. 

In 2019, the United Nations accused Blackstone of “wreaking havoc” in communities and driving a global housing crisis. In the letter, they claimed the company artificially inflated rent, imposed heavy fees for repairs, and undertook “aggressive evictions”, leading to “devastating consequences for people.” Blackstone has also been a leading opponent of renter-friendly laws, using its significant financial resources and political sway to smother progressive housing policy. 

When the company isn’t tyrannizing its tenants, it’s leading the fight to destroy the environment. In 2021 the New York Times reported that since 2021, the Blackstone-led private equity industry has invested $1.1 trillion into the energy sector—the vast majority of it fossil fuels—a sum that makes fossil fuel investments by actual oil and gas companies look miserly. Think of any environmental crisis in the last decade and it’s likely Blackstone is linked to it. They own considerable stake in the companies that built the Keystone Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Group owns two Brazilian companies significantly responsible for the deforestation and commercialization of the Amazon rainforest. 

Blackstone’s CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, has donated hundreds of millions to the Republican Party. He was an early advocate and donor for Donald Trump, and was rewarded when named chairman of Trump’s “Strategic and Policy Forum”. He and his company are as directly responsible as anyone for the lamentable state of our nation, our communities, and our environments. None of this is mentioned in the description of the company on the CLBR website. 

Blackstone VP Tom Weaver isn’t the only Reed alumni with a prominent role in the company. Reed graduate and current Reed trustee, Nicholas Galakatos, is a member of the Blackstone Board of Directors and the chairman of the Life Sciences Investment Committee. For the most liberal college in America, these ought to be infamous connections. 

The ethical questions framing the career search aren’t black and white. The salary gap between Blackstone and, say, an environmental advocacy group, means different things for different students. The concept of “selling-out”, of sacrificing one’s moral or aesthetic integrity for material gain, assumes a socio-economic standpoint from which it’s feasible to live decently without a “soul-killing” job. Many students have more souls to care for than just their own. But these complexities don’t justify silence or opacity. Rather, CLBR should be obligated to inform students about the companies and fields they introduce us to. If a Reed student takes a job at Blackstone, they should know it’s a company which operates in direct contradiction to the principles we as a community ostensibly share, read about, and cultivate together. 

The Reed student body has come together in efforts to make Reed a better place to learn and live. However, we haven’t yet tapped into our greater source of collective power: not as current students but as future employees. If we want to make not just Reed but our world a better place, we should probably stop working for the companies doing the damage. Saying no to the Blackstone Group might be a good place to start.

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Peter C Stockman
Peter C Stockman
11 months ago

I say go for it. Disparage Reed alumnae. Just be gratuitously hostile. It helps the College soooo much.

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