Three students from David Solomon’s alma mater, Hamilton College, have taken aim at the Goldman Sachs CEO after he allegedly referred to the movement to divest in fossil fuel as “stupid.”
In a letter written by three seniors at the school, Solomon – a 1984 graduate from the private liberal arts college – was accused of “belittling” the students while speaking to them about the school’s climate change efforts.
Solomon’s comments, according to the letter, came during a “Senior Networking with Trustees” event that he took part in at the college in March, when the students challenged him about divestment from fossil fuels.
Solomon, the letter stated at the time, was speaking to “a group of six or so people” who “were all non-male, and at least half were people of color.”
The executive’s comments, according to the students, were in a “patronizing and disrespectful manner” and came from a “position of power.”
“Despite knowing nothing about us and our roles in our communities and history of activist work, Solomon claimed he does more in a week to help climate change than we will ever do in our entire lives. When we asked him to elaborate, he attributed his ‘capital accumulation’ and position of power,” the students wrote.
The students also accused Solomon of offering a “racially-charged sentiment” when he claimed they benefited from financial aid in order to attend the college.
“He pointed at each one of us, claiming that all of us must be on financial aid; he implied that we should show immense gratitude because we are in debt to the college’s endowment and that we should not complain about its investment portfolio,” the students wrote in the letter. “Once we all looked shocked at the claim, he quickly backtracked, citing the statistic that something like 80% of Hamilton students are on some kind of financial aid.”
When it came to fossil fuel divestment, the students claimed Solomon told them that it was a “stupid movement” and suggested that they should live in other regions in the world to see how things “really work.”
“He also claimed he did not know what we were talking about in reference to ‘legacy private investments.’ Solomon then indicated that he thought [fossil] fuel divestment was a stupid movement. He called us hypocritical for advocating for divestment when we still use electricity and drive cars — and said that if we traveled to countries like China, India, and Cambodia we would see how the world ‘really works,’ and then see if we want to live like that,” the students claimed.
“At one point, he laughed and told us he’d be dead in thirty years, so climate change would be our problem anyway. Yet, later in the conversation, he asserted his optimism for the future of society and our planet. His willful ignorance continued, with seemingly no intention to actually learn or genuinely engage with us beyond belittling us,” the students added.
In a statement to Business Insider, Goldman Sachs spokesman Tony Fratto said, “David Solomon has enormous respect for the students at Hamilton College. He did not and would not say things to offend them. We strongly dispute the claims that he did.”
Solomon, 61, serves as the chair of Hamilton’s board of trustees and has been a member of the board since 1996.