OpinionA message to Danny Anderson and the Board of Trustees: Divest.

A case for Trinity's divestment from fossil fuels
Ethan CraneApril 30, 202011903 min
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Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys

I would like to share the following message — signed by hundreds of Trinity students and alumni — directed to President Danny Anderson and the Board of Trustees:

We believe that divestment from fossil fuels — selling off all assets tied to coal, oil and natural gas companies — will not only be a sound decision for the health of our institution’s endowment but also for the wellbeing of its current and future graduating classes, who deserve to graduate with a future free from climate chaos and destruction. We also believe this action is necessary to realize Trinity University’s core value of “honoring the dignity and worth of every person,” including the vulnerable members of society who suffer most from climate change.

Institutions such as our own have been judged poorly by history for standing idly by during the divestment movement that defeated South African Apartheid. Now, we have another opportunity to send a clear, moral message on behalf of current and future generations: that it is reprehensible to profit off the destruction of our planet’s natural systems and therein the devastation of millions upended from their homes and deprived of basic needs, prosperous futures and the right to life.

Over the last several years, institutions with portfolios worth trillions of dollars in the aggregate have divested from fossil fuels, with corporations, governments, non-profit organizations, pension-funds and universities divesting their assets. This has weakened fossil fuel companies’ public image and financial strength. Coal, oil and natural gas have wreaked less havoc on our climate than otherwise possible, and public urgency for a rapid transition to renewable energy has increased. Trinity University’s divestment from fossil fuels would bolster this positive trend. Therefore, we believe it is morally obligatory that the Board of Trustees deliver on this front.

From South African Apartheid to today’s climate crisis, a vital question has been raised: Why should institutions invest their money in a moral vacuum, incomparable with the values of communities they claim to represent? To correct this prevailing injustice, we ask that Trinity University join “civilized” institutions and embrace something called democracy. After disclosing all financial holdings in the endowment portfolio, we demand that all of Trinity’s students, alumni, faculty, workers, staff and trustees be granted one vote in an election to enact a socially responsible investment policy that reflects our values.

Reader, I ask for your signature to end Trinity University’s absurd fossil fuel investments and to implement an investment plan that democratically reflects all of our values.

Fossil fuels are a high-risk, low-reward financial bet. The industry consistently prioritizes meager short-term profits over long-term financial health and the health of the planet. They rely on social and financial support from institutions like our own to expand drilling operations, lobby for climate inaction and fund climate disinformation groups. Simply put, it is egregious for us to aid such business activities that recklessly seek to profit off of human and ecological suffering. By divesting our university’s endowment from these activities, we would actively promote a sustainable world that does not catastrophically threaten life on Earth.

My fellow Young Democratic Socialists of America member, Joshua Anaya, wrote a Trinitonian piece a few weeks ago titled “A case for divestment from fossil fuels.” If you have any remaining doubts about fossil fuel divestment, I suggest that you give it a read. Ultimately, the case has been made and will continue to be made until every dollar from our endowment is divested from fossil fuels, and we democratically decide how our university invests its money. President Danny Anderson and the Board of Trustees have a simple, binary choice: Ethically invest our endowment or utterly fail to live up to the university values you profess.

Ethan Crane is a sophomore economics major and a member of Trinity’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America.

Editor’s note: In 2019, the Trinitonian reported on Trinity’s investments in fossil fuels. Read our coverage here.

Ethan Crane

One comment

  • Judith Norman

    May 1, 2020 at 4:21 pm

    Very pleased that Trinity students are undertaking this initiative. You are pushing Trinity to stand by its stated values and I wish you every success with this endeavor. As an undergraduate, I signed a pledge that I would never donate to my college unless it divested from its holdings in South Africa. It failed to divest and I have never given them a dime. Values matter.

    Reply

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