Online protest of Bank of America calls out Rose
Bowdoin’s president is on the board of the last major U.S. bank to finance companies running border detention centers
June 25, 2019
Editor’s Note, 6/26/19, 7:44 p.m.: Bank of America announced on Wednesday afternoon that it would cease lending to private prison corporations. President Clayton Rose issued a statement in support of this decision on Wednesday evening.
On Monday morning, President Clayton Rose became the first subject of an online campaign to protest Bank of America, the only major bank still financing private prison corporations that operate migrant detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Online activist group Sleeping Giants launched the campaign on Facebook, calling on its hundreds of thousands of followers to contact Rose, a member of the Bank of America Board of Directors.
According to a report released in April by In the Public Interest, the Public Accountability Initiative and the Center for Popular Democracy, Bank of America provides credit to CivicCore and GEO Group, two of the largest private incarceration corporations that own and operate detention centers along the southern border. Other major banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, announced that they would divest from the for-profit prison companies in March.
Migrants and asylum seekers interned in the detention centers face insufficient facilities and lack basic hygienic supplies, and last spring, a “zero-tolerance policy” for illegal border crossings led to the separation of over 2,000 children from their families.
Sleeping Giants’ Facebook post included the names, emails and office phone numbers of Sara Eddy and Jennifer Libby, both executive assistants in the Office of the President, as well as a head shot of Rose and an email template for followers to send to Eddy and Libby. The email template includes the question of whether “President Rose is a supporter of child concentration camps in the United States.”
It mentions Rose’s time at Harvard Business School, where he taught courses in moral leadership and ethics. “At Bowdoin, he has taught ‘The Moral Leader’ and advocates for ‘thoughtful engagement in civic life,’” reads the email template. “Can he comment on what’s moral or ethical about Bank of America providing lines of credit to enable crimes against humanity?”
As of publication, the Facebook post had been shared over 500 times.
Rose was not available to comment directly on Sleeping Giants’ post. But in a statement sent to the Orient by Scott Hood, senior vice president for communications and public affairs, Rose wrote, “I am appalled with what has been going on at the US-Mexican border and with the terrible hardships and inhuman treatment immigrants and their families are facing.”
Hood wrote in an email to the Orient that Rose does not believe his positions at Bowdoin and on Bank of America’s Board of Directors conflict with one another, and Hood clarified that Rose does not speak for Bank of America.
Sleeping Giants’ Facebook post comes the week after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D.-NY) referred to the privately-run detention centers as “concentration camps” in an Instagram live stream, fueling anew outrage and debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
Nandini Jammi, one of the founding organizers of Sleeping Giants, wrote in a statement to the Orient that Ocasio-Cortez’s actions prompted the launch of the Facebook campaign now, over two months after the report implicating Bank of America was released.
The organization hopes to target well-known corporations like Bank of America and draw attention to “the close ties between the businesses we patronize and the atrocities unfolding in front of us,” wrote Jammi. It will continue to post similar email templates and contact information on Facebook for the other Bank of America directors.
“It’s jarring to see that these decisions are often being greenlighted by community leaders, as is the case with [Rose],” Jammi wrote. “If you’re a leader of an institution committed to ethics and human rights, how can you draw a paycheck from a company that’s funding child abuse?”
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We should applaud the BoA’s move to divest and President Rose’s statement. Yet, shamefully, these both represent a response to public pressure rather than a genuine moral impulse. Bowdoin’s leadership is fundamentally at odds with our community values, and we deserve better. President Rose might well teach an intro course in Economics, but he has no business teaching a seminar on moral leadership.