Tuesday, January 22, 2013

University of Minnesota Faculty Protest TCF Bank's Closure of Iranian Student Accounts

January 22, 2013

Dear Jay Kosmicki (Vice President and Region Manager) and TCF executives,

We hope that you will take the time to read this letter, as our intention is not to generate ill will, but rather to urge better practices that befit an institution that works with and benefits from a diverse university community.

First, we must express our deep disappointment in TCF-Minneapolis Bank’s unilateral closing of the bank accounts of at least 22 UMN Iranian students citing possible violations of U.S. trade sanctions. As the students have not engaged in any illegal banking transactions, this appeared to be a case of discrimination based on national origin and unfounded “preemptive” stereotypes. As university faculty who research social practices and ideas, we recognized that TCF’s actions, whether intentional or not, fit precisely within the definition of xenophobia.  In other words, allowing a person’s social and group category as the determining factor in assessing an individual without regard to his or her actual actions is textbook prejudice.

Second, we are perhaps even more dismayed by how TCF has handled the process and the aftermath of its actions - the holiday timing of the letters, the lack of empathy and compassion, the misplaced justifications, the dearth of case-by-case review, to name a few. Beyond being “tone-deaf,” we are struck by how distant and anti-social its response has been. If we only imagine how a cursory frown or an misspoken phrase can easily ruin a person’s day, it takes little imagination to understand that the imposed closing of an important facet of one’s life can generate feelings of immense anxiety, betrayal, anger, injustice, dislocation, insult, and injury. 

In this light, we – part of a growing group of faculty and staff members at the University of Minnesota – will switch our direct deposit from TCF Bank into a different institution and/or will close our accounts. We no longer feel comfortable having TCF be the responsible institution for our deposits. This will occur the first week of Spring semester 2013. Some of us also have multiple accounts and mortgages with TCF, and we will begin to move and close these relationships should TCF continue with such anti-social tactics without apology and with impunity. We are in the process of establishing a network of concerned faculty who are gravely concerned about this matter. 

Having stated the above, we also believe that institutions can change; and that all individuals who work within institutions do not necessary agree with a particular course of action. We hope that you will share this letter with other decision-makers at TCF and attempt to reform some of the culture that led to these unfortunate acts.  Many members of the University of Minnesota, for example, are beginning to think that because of TCF’s market strength (some might say monopoly with the Ucard) at the U, they are taking advantage of its power, instead of realizing that the beauty and creativity of a university lies in its embracing of differences and its recognition of an ample humanity. 


Concerned Faculty and Staff at the University of Minnesota

(which include but are not limited by the undersigned)

William Beeman, Anthropology
David Chang, History
Vichet Chhuon, College of Education and Human Development
Siobhan Craig, English
Tracey Deutsch, History
Michael Goldman, Sociology and Global Studies
Karen Ho, Anthropology
Beth Mercer-Taylor, Institute on the Environment
Peter Mercer-Taylor, Music
Leslie Morris, German, Scandinavian, and Dutch
Paula Rabinowitz, English
Rachel Schurman, Sociology and Global Studies
Hoon Song, Anthropology
Dara Strolovitch, Political Science