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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

April 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Opinion

Editorial: Investing in fossil fuels unsustainable for college

With rising concern about the impacts of climate change on the planet, many universities and colleges across the U.S. have joined the divestment movement and cut ties with fossil fuel companies.

Ithaca College is not one such institution, and to date, the college has not provided a convincing argument as to why it should not make the pledge, or at least study the potential outcomes of doing so.

A student-led group called IC Divest brought the issue front and center several years ago, but it fell victim to the cyclical nature of graduating classes. This phenomenon is certainly convenient for college administrations, who can lend an ear to students’ concerns that rotate through a revolving door.

IC Progressives is showing the first signs of bringing the movement back to this campus, as nearly 100 colleges and universities have committed to divesting. The campus needs a reminder of what is at stake and why divestment is worth fighting for.

The college currently has 2.1 percent of its endowment invested in fossil fuel companies and has defended this by saying its current investment strategy makes sustainable practices more affordable.

Yet in this justification lies an inherent contradiction. The pursuit of sustainable practices and energies by the college is hindered by its current investment in fossil fuel companies, whose actions contribute greatly to global warming. Fossil fuels are unsustainable, and even investing in these companies flies in the face of a truly sustainable, environmentally friendly enterprise.

At the very least, the college should consider divestment. Instead of speculatory guesswork — or lack thereof — the college should make an effort to explore the issue further. This could be done by working with an outside consulting firm to study the problem and produce actual data. Shutting down the dialogue on divestment simply showcases an unwillingness to explore new options to improve the college’s relationship with sustainability.

It is possible for the college to join the divestment movement — several similarly sized colleges like Hampshire College have divested from the fossil fuel industry. With a dedication to the issue and an action plan to take a closer look at divestment, the college can begin taking meaningful steps toward cutting ties with fossil fuel companies. For although the college prides itself on its sustainable practices on campus, its continued financial support of fossil fuel behemoths impedes its true embracing of sustainability.