The students of Barnard College were expecting to hear from Lloyd C. Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, as part of a lecture series titled “Power Talks.”
But over the weekend, Mr. Blankfein informed the college that he was canceling his appearance, originally planned for Thursday night, because of a scheduling conflict.
“Mr. Blankfein has informed us that he must be in Washington D.C. that evening and will be unable to deliver his lecture as planned,” read a statement on the college’s Web site.
A planned visit by one of the most recognizable chief executives on Wall Street had stirred anger at Barnard, a liberal arts college whose president, Debora L. Spar, was elected to Goldman’s board this summer. The timing of Mr. Blankfein’s lecture, which coincided with the continued encampment of the Occupy Wall Street movement in lower Manhattan, certainly didn’t help matters.
Barnard students were planning a week of workshops to coincide with Mr. Blankfein’s talk. According to The Columbia Spectator, students called the series “School the Squid,” a reference to Matt Taibbi’s “vampire squid” characterization of Goldman Sachs in his now-infamous Rolling Stone take-down.
“CU Activists were planning a teach-in outside the Barnard gates to explain why he is not a responsible citizen nor a role model,” Yoni Golijov, a Columbia student, told The Spectator. Two other groups were reportedly planning simultaneous protests.
Several Twitter users had also picked up on Mr. Blankfein’s planned appearance in connection with Occupy Wall Street. “Who wants to give Goldman Sachs’s CEO a few problems on October 12?” wrote user @Austingst.
Had Mr. Blankfein spoken at Barnard, he would not have been the first financial executive to face backlash at a public appearance. In 2008, union activists interrupted a speech by David M. Rubenstein, the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, during a private equity conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The students of Barnard may never know if threats of undergraduate unrest were to blame for Mr. Blankfein’s cancellation. A Goldman spokesman said that Mr. Blankfein had “cancelled because of a scheduling conflict.” And Kathryn Kolbert, the director of the Athena Center, said that while organizers were working with Mr. Blankfein to reschedule the event, any new date would “probably not be this fall.”
Barnard is refunding ticket-holders for Thursday’s event.
Whatever the cause of Mr. Blankfein’s no-show, the college may want to consider re-titling its lecture series “Power Talks, Except When It Doesn’t.”