Consulting presentation canceled in face of protest
Activists claim victory after objecting to firm's involvement with school closings
March 20, 2013, 12:40 pm·
An on-campus information session for the Boston Consulting Group was canceled at the last minute Wednesday against the backdrop of a planned student protest.
The Student Labor Action Project, a student workers’ rights advocacy group, planned to protest the presentation because of BCG’s involvement with school closings in Philadelphia. In a report commissioned by the School District of Philadelphia, BCG recommended the closure of 60 public schools.
Earlier this month, officials voted to close 23 schools.
Protesters were set to meet outside Houston Hall — where the session was planned to take place — claiming “that since BCG decided to shut down our schools it’s only fair to shut down their meeting,” according to the protest’s Facebook event.
Keri Messa, a recruiting assistant for BCG, said she was advised by Penn Career Services to postpone the session.
“They told me that there’s an Occupy Wall Street movement happening on campus and it was right outside the room we were going to be in,” Messa said. However, she had “no idea” that the demonstration was in direct response to BCG’s planned presence on campus.
She added that while the firm planned to reschedule the event, the fact that it was targeted by protesters “might create an issue for us coming back.”
Senior Associate Director for Career Services Barabara Hewitt said in an email that Career Services was informed by Perelman Quadrangle staff that a demonstration was possible.
“We simply let the BCG recruiter know and it was their decision as to whether to reschedule or not,” she added.
Perelman Quadrangle’s policy is to notify event planners of possible protests, Tom Hauber, the executive director of Vice Provost for University Life Facilities, said in an email. When the Division of Public Safety informed his office of the protest, “we relayed that information to Career Services,” he said.
He added that while event planners independently decide whether to modify their plans based on the potential for demonstrations, “very few” events are changed.
College junior Penny Jennewein, a SLAP organizer, claimed “victory” in an email to several listservs, saying that BCG canceled the presentation “due to student organizing.”
“It shows that Penn students care about the community we live in, and we will not tolerate our schools being shut down,” Jennewein said in an interview. “Even though we’re Penn students, we’re in solidarity with students across the city.”
She criticized the fact that BCG has presented plans for “privatizing” schools across the country, not just in Philadelphia.
“Penn students go work for them, and as a student there’s nothing socially responsible or good about closing schools and privatizing public education,” she said. “We can’t stand for that.”
The firm was slated to give a presentation on the Bridge to BCG program, a three-day summer workshop for graduate students.
Jennewein added that protesters would plan to demonstrate again if the event is rescheduled.