Occupy groups, including Occupy Petaluma, are planning a “Day of Shame” at Sonoma State University's graduation Saturday to criticize the school for awarding an honorary doctorate for the former CEO of Citigroup who they say helped cause the economic crisis.
An estimated 2,300 Sonoma State University students will graduate atSaturday's 50th anniversary commencement ceremonies in Rohnert Park.
Occupy groups are targeting former Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill who donated $12 million to the school’s new Green Music Center. While at Citigroup, Weill successfully lobbied to repeal the Glass Steagall Act, allowing banks to engage in risky investments.
The reversal of the Depression-era ban on commercial banks investing depositors’ money opened the gates for the housing crisis in 2008 and set off a wave of home foreclosures, according to critics.
The repeal of Glass-Steagall helped Citigroup become the first great financial supermarket, paving the way for other banks the government would later consider “too big to fail.”
Because the government considered the risks too great if Citigroup went under, it bailed it out to the tune of $45 billion along with a $300 billion guarantee in bad assets.
In 2011, TIME magazine named Weill one of “25 People to Blame for the Financial Crisis.”
“Power-broker Sandy Weill is one of the banksters most directly responsible for the nation’s economic collapse,” Occupy Petaluma said in a statement issued Friday. “We stand strongly opposed to honoring him, and his wife Joan, at the SSU graduation ceremony.”
Occupy Petaluma and other groups have pledged to not disrupt Saturday’s graduation and not shout, carry signs or make any kind of noise.
The SSU campus appears to have a mixed reaction to Saturday’s protest.
"My family has waited years and years and years to watch me walk across that stage, and Sanford Weill's purchased doctorate degree willliterally insult that honor to its core," said graduating student Melanie Sanders said.
But faculty member Cynthia Boaz questioned the protest, saying it will disrupt the students' graduation ceremony and"alienate more people than it will recruit to the cause."
Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana said the Weills, who are from NewYork and own a home in Sonoma County, have a long history of philanthropy,and a commitment to healthcare, the arts and education.
-Bay City News contributed to this report
What do you think of the Weills’ honorary degree in lieu of a $12 million donation to SSU? No big deal? Inappropriate? Sound off in the comments below.