March 3, 2014

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Divestment Debate Far From Over

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To the Editor:

Re: “Skorton Rejects Faculty Senate Resolution Calling for Divestment,” News, Feb. 26

Notwithstanding President David Skorton’s remarks at a Feb. 26 meeting of the University Assembly, the discussion around divesting Cornell’s endowment from fossil fuels is far from over.

At that meeting, President Skorton expressed concerns over financial impact to the endowment. “I don’t know for sure whether divestment will hurt our endowment or not,” Skorton said. “I cannot tell you it’s safe to divest.”

Of course not. Investment comes with uncertainty. But that uncertainty is innate whether we divest or not. And furthermore, the administration has failed to give substantiated backing to their concerns that it’s unsafe to divest.

Cornell is, among other things, a world-class research institution. Ask any scientist here and they’ll tell you, when faced with uncertainties, your first plan of attack is to gather data to help clarify the situation.

The writers of the Faculty Senate resolution did just that, and they came to the conclusion that divestment would have little or no effect. The Office of University Investment, meanwhile, has provided nothing more than vague warnings about the infeasibility of divestment.

Given the passing of divestment resolutions now by Cornell undergraduates, graduate and professional students on Feb. 10, and by the faculty Dec. 11, isn’t it time for the OUI to provide something concrete to substantiate their claims? Until then, students and faculty cannot take “I don’t know” as a final answer.

Update: The Student Assembly reaffirmed its call for divestment by passing Resolution 60 in support of the Faculty Senate resolution during its Feb. 27 meeting. The primary dissenting opinions were directed at the lack of hard numbers provided by the University.

David Beavers ’14