Saturday, May 18, 2013
By BEN McCANNA Morning Sentinel
WATERVILLE - Protesters and counterprotesters gathered Saturday on the Colby College campus green to voice their opinions on Robert Diamond -- the embattled chairman of the college's board of trustees -- and the anti-Diamond protesters won a small victory.
Anti-Diamond protesters Shelby O’Neill, center, a Colby College sophomore, and Uzoma Orchingwa, a Colby senior, right, talk with Colby junior and counterprotester Steve Carroll, left, outside the Diamond Building during Saturday’s protest on the college green.
Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel
Diamond, a 1973 Colby graduate, was at the center of an interest rate-fixing scandal this summer for his role as CEO of the British bank Barclays. Diamond has since resigned his post, but he remains chairman of the board at Colby.
Some people want that to change, however.
For more than an hour Saturday morning, 10 student protesters and about 15 members of Occupy Augusta stood in light rain, clutching handwritten signs, hoping to confront Diamond after a scheduled board meeting.
The encounter never materialized, but two student organizers were invited inside to make their case to two trustees, including Vice Chairman Richard Uchida. After the private meeting, the students emerged and addressed a jubilant crowd.
Sophomore Shelby O'Neill and senior Gordon Fischer said the trustees were receptive to the group's concerns and encouraged them to host a schoolwide forum to discuss Diamond's role at the private liberal arts college of 1,800 students.
"The board seems to be willing to have that conversation and respect that conversation," said O'Neill, who is pursuing majors in government and philosophy.
The two board members were unavailable for a reporter's questions. Likewise, a Colby spokesman denied a reporter's request to interview Diamond.
London-based newsmagazine The Economist has reported that employees at Barclays and other banks rigged the London interbank offered rate. The LIBOR is an average rate set by banks each day that measures how much they're going to charge each other for loans. That rate, in turn, affects rates on many loans for consumers and businesses.
The magazine said the bank has paid hundreds of millions in fines to American and British regulators, who said the bank staff tried to manipulate LIBOR for profit and to quiet concerns about its own creditworthiness, according to published reports.
So far, the college has stood behind Diamond. In August, at Diamond's request, the board met in executive session to discuss the scandal. After a lengthy discussion among more than 30 trustees, the board "strongly affirmed its support of Mr. Diamond as chair," according to an Aug. 14 news release on the college's website.
O'Neill said students deserved a voice in that decision, and the forum will serve as a significant step in the right direction, even if it's non-binding.
Just minutes after the announcement, another protest group arrived on the green. Six young men stood outside the Diamond Building and shouted slogans of support for the building's namesake. Steve Carroll, a junior, held aloft a cardboard sign with a simple message: "He built this."
Carroll, a government major from Philadelphia, was soon surrounded by anti-Diamond protesters seeking answers.
"I think there should be a distinction between what (Diamond) has done for Colby and what he's done on Wall Street," Carroll said. "It's blown out of proportion. If you look at his track record on the board of trustees, it's hard to argue that he's done poorly for this school.
"He sends Colby students to Barclays for job interviews. He helps people get connected on Wall Street. He does invaluable good for this school."
Carroll said Diamond is a frequent topic among his peers in economics and government studies and he is largely supported in those circles.
Sydney Morison, a sophomore who believes Diamond's presence on the board compromises Colby's values, said the subject hasn't gained much momentum in other circles.
"I'd like to see more discussion. A lot of people say they don't want to bite the hand that feeds us, but the hand is feeding us poison," she said.
Occupy Augusta organizer Lew Kingsbury of Pittston studied government at Colby and graduated in 1977. He said he was pleased with the turnout Saturday, particularly by students. He hopes the student group will grow independent of Occupy Augusta. "It would be great to pass the torch to these Colby kids," he said.
Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at: