Thirty-one students attended a Center for Career Education-hosted trip on Friday to the offices of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, a company that has been criticized for its choice of clients.
Burson-Marsteller markets itself as a company that clients contact
Al Spuler, CCE’s executive director of administration and planning, said that CCE is a forum for exploring job and internship opportunities, and that it does not discriminate among potential employers.
Spuler added that the organizations CCE allows to recruit are chosen based on data from student surveys, economic and labor market trends, student group recommendations, and alumni contacts.
Despite the controversies surrounding Burson-Marsteller, many students showed an interest in working there.
Jason Marshall, GS ’11 , who attended the visit, said he was surprised to hear about the trip since he said that most PR firms aren’t hiring. He also noted the benefits of working for a company with high-profile clients, even if some of those clients are controversial.
Rami Levi, CC ’12, went on the site visit to learn more about the company a day after applying for an internship there. Levi said that while there can be “controversy that comes with working on high-profile cases,” he went on the site visit to learn about a job that involved creative problem-solving.
Students who did not attend the trip agreed that CCE was right not to let past controversies prevent a Burson-Marsteller site visit.
Ellen Ward, CC ’13, said while Columbia working with Burson-Marsteller might seem questionable, it should not be Columbia’s job to discriminate.
“I mean, I’ve seen Blackwater posters in Mudd,” Ward added.
R.J. Barker, SEAS ’12, said a lot of the controversies surrounding Burson-Marsteller are dated, citing a case from 1992.
“I mean, we’re talking about two decades ago,” Barker said. “I don’t know what the company is like now and can’t base judgment because of the controversial projects one manager picked up.”
While she did not attend the trip, Kaley Hanenkrat, BC ’11 and president of the Columbia University College Democrats, said that she could not fault CCE for sponsoring a visit to Burson-Marsteller. She added, though, that Columbia puts too much emphasis on traditional post-graduation employment options.
Burson-Marsteller representatives did not respond to requests for comment.