Penn has given me everything I have ever dreamed about. I have received unimaginable opportunities since coming here, and I know I am getting a quality education.
Needless to say, I want what is best for this institution.
Let me repeat that. I want what is best for this institution.
After listening to the Penn Sustainability Review’s debate on divestment, I think this idea of ‘what is best for Penn’ has gotten lost for those students supporting Penn’s divestment from fossil fuel companies.
Before this debate, I didn’t have much knowledge about the pros and cons of divestment so I went to the debate, listened to both sides, saw the merits of the arguments being presented, and, then… left livid. Here’s why:
The pro-divestment side started their segment of the debate showing evocative images of things such as the wildfires in California, tsunami victims walking barefoot among destroyed houses, and a dead frog that was killed from an oil spill to show the harmful effects of climate change. Surprise, surprise. The Left used emotion to appeal to the crowd.
The argument that the pro side presented was also incredibly, but effectively, simple. Their argument was, basically, fossil fuels cause global warming. Global warming is bad for our planet so, therefore, it’s immoral to invest in companies that burn fossil fuels. We should divest from these companies because that’s the moral thing to do.
The pro-divestment side did add to their argument that investing in fossil fuel companies is going against the Penn Sustainability Act, and, as renewable energy becomes the norm, we will divest from fossil fuels anyway. There are issues in these arguments, but since the pro side focused mainly on the moral argument, that is the one I will focus on.
Without hearing from the con side, the moral argument doesn’t seem all that bad. In fact, when Penn had its referendum on divestment last year, the moral argument was the only one that was explained to me, and I wasn’t sure what the thinking behind not divesting was.
Now, it’s obvious.
Divesting would not be beneficial for Penn, and it would only hurt the school’s reputation and community. The money that Penn receives from investing in fossil fuel companies is significant. All of the money goes directly into the Penn endowment, which is then saved so Penn can gain greater interest. The interest helps fund scholarships, financial aid, and the top professors that give us our Ivy League education. Penn invests in fossil fuels to benefit the students’ futures.
The argument from the pro side, in response, is that the students won’t have a future if the planet is destroyed. But wait… didn’t the pro side also say that we would eventually divest from fossil fuel companies anyway once renewable energy became the better choice? Yes. Yes, they did.
So, even though we would divest from fossil fuel companies eventually anyway, the pro side thinks Penn should divest now to be on the right side of history. Would Penn be on the right side of history though if it rejects capable and intelligent students because it doesn’t have enough money to give them scholarships and financial aid that would allow them to attend? Would Penn be on the right side of history if the reputation of their institution denigrates because they can no longer afford the best professors? Would Penn be on the right side of history if it rejects any of the people who may become huge players in renewable energy research?
The pro side is right. This is a moral issue, but whose morality are we looking at? I think it’s a noble cause to want to save the environment, but at what cost? The question needs to be ‘what is best for Penn’. We will divest eventually when the renewable energy technology is there, but it’s not right now. If we divest, we will only cause more harm to the Penn community, and that is not the purpose of the Penn endowment’s interest funds. Their purpose is to benefit the students, not impact social change.
I won’t be swayed by the call-to-arms rhetoric that the Left employs to get people on their side. If people truly listened and analyzed both arguments, instead of playing on their phones or laughing whenever the con side took a turn to speak, they would realize that divesting is not the best decision for Penn.
In the next couple days, a board will be selected to present the merits and downfalls of divestment to the Penn Board of Trustees. Let’s hope the board makes the right decision.