Students and faculty at Yale University, fresh off the renaming of Calhoun College, want their new, $150 million student center, named after Wall Street mogul Stephen Schwarzman, also renamed due to Schwarzman’s ties to Donald Trump.
Schwarzman, who heads the Blackstone private equity firm, is financing the student center as well as a number of scholarships for Yale students. Campus activists are now concerned that Schwarzman’s position on Trump’s economic advisory council makes him complicit in what they term Trump’s “damage to our economy, society and republic.”
Schwarzman is a 1969 alumnus of Yale, where he belonged to the notorious Skull and Bones secret society.
According to the Yale Daily News, Schwartzman’s detractors have papered the campus with photos of Schwarzman meeting with Trump above the question “What is Stephen Schwarzman’s ‘Principal Legacy’?” and have considered drafting and circulating a petition to have Schwarzman’s name removed from the student center, which formally opens in 2020.
Yale political science professor and noted writer Jim Sleeper even penned an angry op-ed on the subject for AlterNet, claiming that Schwarzman was a “plutocrat” whose “personal piggishness” and investment-generated wealth, “deepened inequality … and the “vicious, degrading civic spiral” that capitalism has caused in society.
Those sins are dwarfed only, of course, by Schwarzman’s affiliations with Trump. Sleeper went on to demand that the billionaire’s name be removed from the nascent student center, claiming that this removal would prevent an argument years in the future, similar to the one that recently ousted 19th century white supremacist John C. Calhoun’s name from one of Yale’s “residential colleges”.
Fortunately for Schwarzman, the Yale administration is decidedly on his side, maintaining that a political litmus tests should never be used when considering donations, because it could lead to a “slippery slope.”
University President Peter Salovey told the student newspaper that, “We should be thankful that a Yale alumnus is willing both to be generous to our University as well as serve our country, whether that service is to someone with whom we agree strongly or disagree strongly,”
Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Joan O’Neill told the same interviewer that Schwarzman’s involvement with Trump was far from the most salient aspect of his career, and that “the fact that he’s on a committee should not define who Steve is as a philanthropist or an individual.”
Schwarzman, himself, has dealt with controversy over his Trump ties before, notably from scholars who were part of the Fellowship program he established. At the time, he defended his position to the concerned students, saying that, “I have always believed one’s obligation is to work for the common good. To the extent you can help achieve this objective for other people, you have an obligation to do so even if there is a short-term cost.”