To the Editor:
I’m an Rensselaer alumnus writing again in support of those students who continue to call for RPI to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
This past Homecoming/Reunion Weekend I was able to stand with signs urging divestment, but because my “Application to Hold a Peaceful Demonstration” on campus was denied, I had to limit my stand to public sidewalks surrounding the campus and could not be on school property.
From my sidewalk stand on College Avenue near EMPAC, I had many meaningful conversations with passing students, staff, and other alumni, on Friday before President Shirley Ann Jackson’s “State of the Institute” address. I had many similar conversations on Saturday at the corner of Peoples Avenue and Burdett Avenue just below the field house before the afternoon women’s soccer game and the evening men’s hockey game.
One alumnus with whom I spoke felt that a university endowment should be governed as a resource only and not as a “political action committee.” My question for him was, “Does that mean then that those colleges and universities who divested from Apartheid South Africa in the 1980s and from the tobacco industry in the 1990s where wrong in doing so?’’ I think not.
The climate crisis we face rises to the “extremely rare and exceptional circumstances” that Harvard’s President Drew Faust has set as criteria for divestment. The climate crisis is the moral issue of our times and I would hope that RPI would be a leader in divesting from the fossil fuel industry that deceives the public, denies science, and obstructs solutions.
However, you don’t even have to believe in climate change or that we humans have a part in causing it to support divestment. If your only concern was to support RPI in maximizing its endowment, then you should support divestment. The research firm S&P Capital IQ actually ran the numbers on the S&P 500, and found an endowment that excluded the targeted fossil fuel companies would’ve grown more over the last ten years. Certainly there are risks. But there are also potential upsides, and the evidence seems to weigh heavily for the latter.
We can put aside the moral issue of profiting from the carbon that will harm our children and look toward making Rensselaer more money. What’s not to like? Support RPI divestment.
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect those of The Polytechnic, its staff, or the Rensselaer Union.