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september 6, 2012

Trebizond Investments sparks campus controversy

dents to enjoy profit regardless of the effects of their actions on the majority of people,” she said. “Not to mention that the slogan is essentially and inherently elitist in its glorification of occupying some upper echelon of society.” The Georgetown University Student Investment Fund (GUSIF) echoed Occupy’s antipathy towards the provocative catchphrase. In an email statement, the club wrote, “We think that the actions/ promotions [of Trebizond] are immature and do not stand for the beliefs of the investment community.” Tavallali shot back, saying, “Obviously our competitors are jealous … A lot of GUSIF members are joining Trebizond; whether or not the management of GUSIF likes our advertisement campaign, it works.” As for Occupy, the Trebizond founder says their accusations are mere misunderstanding. “[Oc-

cupy] shouldn’t be fighting us. We’re certainly not fighting them in any way,” he said. Even so, GU Occupy is more disturbed by the ethical standards of the investment group than the slogan itself. Unlike GUSIF, which only invests domestically, Trebizond invests globally to increase the risk and reward of investment. “We do look at all the aspects of the investment,” said Tavallali, “including, I guess, the ‘ethical’ aspects of the business. We haven’t invested in that many controversial industries.” With America’s economy remaining sluggish, Trebizond looks elsewhere in for profit. “We have invested in China,” Tavallali admits, “because it’s just a booming place, and when it comes to it … always the market decides.” He commented on Nike and the famous case a few years ago

that caused its stock prices to plummet. “You do need to look at all sorts of risks,” Tavallali said. “Especially these days where you know people are especially sensitive about these subjects.” While the awareness of the financial effects of ethical misconduct of investments is standard business procedure, it does not necessarily display a concern for social or ethical issues. “After pulling out of a company that has fishy practices, that seems to me like just one example of caring about the social and ethical implications of your investments. I don’t see any sort of systematic statement about their socio-ethical framework,” Collins said. Tavallali responded to Occupy’s criticism with defiance. “Since when did capitalism become evil? Capitalism built this country, we’re just continuing that American tradition. We don’t do anything illegal, we’re very to the book, we have very good operating agreements that we all agree on.” Within the group members vote on which companies to invest in, including not just Chinese, but Vietnamese companies as well. Trebizond’s decision to invest in the Vietnam Exchange Traded Fund, which includes various Vietnamese public companies, is another controversial point. “That’s a very highrisk area,” Tavallali said. “The communist government recently threw

seph Vandegriff (COL ‘14), each student paid $1000 for the trip, which included “credentials, some meals, transportation to and from the event, and housing.” The SCS could not pay the cost for students “because they can’t contribute to any partisan political activity, even if it’s balanced,” said Vandegriff. Vandegriff attended the College Democrats National Convention, held before the DNC, but he recognized the special significance of attending the larger party-wide convention in Charlotte, N.C. “The great thing about Georgetown is that you can meet people from all over, but definitely at the DNC you can meet fellow Democrats who are as passionate as you are ... It’s just a cool opportunity to be part of history.” Therese Kilbane Myers (COL ‘15), also expressed excitement in being part of this historic moment in American politics. “For me, I was elected as a delegate from the 10th

congressional district so I’m going to represent Ohio,” Myers said. “I’m really excited because I’m 19 so this is my first presidential election [to vote in], and I was lucky enough to have been at the 1996 convention and the 2008 convention.” Myers is also participating in several caucuses at the DNC. “The Ethnic Council is one of the ones that I have participated in previously,” she said. “I’m also in the Women’s Caucus and the Young Democrats Caucus.” Although he was not part of the SCS group attending the convention, Jonathan Hopkins (MSFS ‘12), a student in the Masters School of Foreign Service and first in his class at West Point, is working at the DNC as a tracker for Tammy Duckworth, a speaker at the DNC and the Democratic nominee for Illinois’s Eighth Congressional District. For Hopkins, working at the DNC and for Duckworth takes a personal tone because he worked for the repeal

of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” through his connections to the military. “If you have to deploy somewhere or change duty stations and you’re married to somebody but it doesn’t count for the federal government so it won’t pay for it.” Hopkins said, “That’s not what our country is about.” Students attending the RNC also had the chance to participate in a historic moment in American politics. “It was phenomenal,” said Maggie Cleary (COL ’14), President of the Georgetown College Republicans, who attended the RNC. “I thought that the entire thing was very moving and inspirational, but it also got everyone inspired for the upcoming election, and I think it got everyone ready and pumped.” Most Americans are familiar with the glitz of the televised speeches each evening, but Cleary says the real policy work happens during the day. “There are Bloomberg and Politico and other nonpartisan groups

by Julia Jester Trebizond Investments has sparked controversy ever since it arrived on campus last semester with the slogan, “Become the 1%.” But as founder Caspian Tavallali (SFS ‘13) put it, “any press is good press, especially when you’re a small company.” This has proven true for the upstart student investment group. Perhaps more alarming than the premise of the slogan itself is how rapidly the group has grown because of it. When GU Occupy “occupied” one of the group’s meetings last semester, there were only an estimated 30 members. Now, the so-called “future one percent” has grown to include 150 members who currently manage $65,000. GU Occupy member Madeline Collins (COL ‘13) sees this as a troubling sign. “I think it suggests that there really are a lot of people who just want to make money for themselves and profit at the expense of others, and who don’t really care about the social implications of what they do,” she said. “There are aspects of this university that encourage that, which is an entirely different conversation.” Speaking on behalf of her fellow Occupiers, Collins expressed disdain for the slogan. “We saw the slogan as shameful and disturbing, because it suggests students, even invites stu-

Lucia He

GU Occupy responds to Trebizond’s advertising campaign with their own posters.

some capitalists in jail and the market fell five percent in one day. So, it does fluctuate, but obviously there’s huge growth potential.” Risky as their decisions may be, Trebizond educates its members and employs democratic processes to make decisions, a system Tavallali describes as “progressive.” Unlike GUSIF, where “the old management, basically picks their friends to become the new management,” Trebizond votes for all board members and investment decisions. However, that is where the politics ends. “We’re just about making investments,” Tavallali said. “Our top priority is profit, that’s business. But second, secondary priority is education.” Trebizond does not require a minimum investment from its members, although most students invest a few hundred dollars on average. As for the slogan, Tavallali wanted to make it clear it was not intended to be offensive, but rather, “tongue-in-cheek.” He said the meaning behind the slogan was, “Aim high and maybe our members will become wealthy and build business and be successful.” But that justification did not sit well with Collins. “To me, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the slogan is tongue-incheek or not,” she said. “Because it’s usually offensive either way, maybe even more so if it’s tongue-in-cheek because it suggests that it’s making

that sponsor the events so a lot of the big name speakers will be sitting on panels about policy early that day,” Cleary said. “During the day, it’s all policy and where the Republican Party is going and how the policy is going to change, and at night it’s a lot of rhetoric.” Although the rhetoric between the two parties has been heated throughout the election, students from both parties recognized the unique feeling of being in that convention stadium with thousands of other people. “The whole point was being in the room and feeling the vibe and hearing them speak live and especially seeing the reaction of the crowd,” said Cleary. “When you’re sitting in a crowd that huge and it just completely erupts when someone like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan says one of their key lines about the American Dream or opportunity, you just get goosebumps.”

Students experience history at RNC and DNC by Jeffrey Lin This year 40 Hoyas attended the national political conventions — 20 attending the Republican showcase, and 20 the Democrats’. Whether participating as volunteers, spectators, or delegates, these students were given a chance to become a part of history. Organized by the School of Continuing Studies, the trips to the RNC and the DNC give students the unique opportunity to experience the glamour and excitement of a national political convention. Attending the conventions transcended partisan lines for the Georgetown students who attended. “This experience helped them better understand what they’re studying and learning about in the program and also follow what interests them,” said Associate Dean James Parenti. According to the Georgetown College Democrats President, Jo-

Profile for The Georgetown Voice

9 6 2012  

9 6 2012  

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