Though Cornell University’s decision not to divest from fossil fuel companies should certainly prompt discussion, Ithaca College is not yet ready to really address the question of divestment.
We’re not ready until we know where our investments actually are and how much money is put into them. Thus, we’re not ready until the college becomes more transparent in this area.
What we do know is that the college invests its money through investment funds that “in turn [take] money from other people who are investing money,” as Carl Sgrecci, former vice president of finance and administration, explained in 2012. He was explaining the complications behind divestment to students who were a part of Divest IC, a campaign of the former Environmental Leadership Action Network that used to be very active on campus, as they protested in November 2012 at President Tom Rochon’s office, asking him to divest from 16 fossil fuel companies.
In effect, the college does not have direct interests in any particular company, but the fund holds some shares with companies, so there are indirect and unclear relationships at play. At least, they are unclear to the campus community.
Our college may have minuscule involvement with fossil fuel interests, or that fund could be investing in all sorts of traditional energy industries. Until we know what the facts and numbers are, it’s difficult and rather unreasonable to urge any specific actions.
The most surefire way for students’ demands to be ignored is when they are uninformed. It’s a common strategy of the administration to wave off requests or demands by saying the students making them lack an understanding of how things work. No one can begin to address the prospect of divesting until we know who we need to divest from, if anyone. The college needs to do its part by practicing transparency and making its investments known to the campus community.