This is a letter to the editor, written by senior environmental studies major Chloe Jackson about her belief that the Truman Investment Committee should divest from fossil fuel corporations. There will be more information about Truman’s investments in the March 17 issue of the Index.
If you haven’t heard of the divestment movement that’s been sweeping the nation for the past few years, it’s time to type the word, followed by “from fossil fuels” or “sit-in” or “arrests” into your search bar. As you can probably infer with your critical thinking skills, “divestment” means taking money out of something. In this context, it means taking money out of corporations that are contributing to environmental upheaval.
Last year, inspired by the actions taken by students at other universities, two fellow activists and I wrote a letter to Truman’s Investment Committee requesting we start a conversation on the issue. The letter was nice, understanding, and sympathetic. We just wanted to talk and see what the possibilities were. But perhaps we were a bit naive, assuming that a government institution would have the morals to not invest in companies polluting the planet without pressure. When we met with the committee at their meeting last fall, we discovered that Truman is investing nearly half a million dollars in fossil fuel companies.
Our little team of environmental activists has been researching the companies we discovered Truman invests in (including Amerada Hess, Apache, British Petroleum, Conoco, and Total) since our fall meeting. What we’ve found isn’t pretty. So when we received a response letter from the Investment Committee recently, which stated that it is not their responsibility to make “qualitative judgements” or discriminate against certain companies, we were confused. Are we talking about the same corporations? The ones that cause giant oil spills and invest in extraction projects on indigenous peoples’ land?
They may have been expecting a submissive reply and a white flag in the air, but the letter I sent in return, which is backed by fellow environmental and social justice advocates on campus, was anything but. Do public institutions that preach about how knowledge can transform individuals and society actually expect students educated on climate change and land rights to sit back and soak in the cognitive dissonance?
Secure investments are important, sure (so why are we investing in fossil fuel companies when so many are going bankrupt?). However, the university also has an obligation to protect future generations from the ever-increasing droughts, hurricanes, floods, typhoons, and heat waves disrupting the planet. And for that matter, we ought to not invest in private prisons, defense and armaments, or the occupation of Palestine through investment in Israel, and we’re looking into what investments Truman has in those realms as well.
We’re currently mobilizing the greater student body to demand Truman divest from companies causing the same problems that many liberal arts students are working hard to combat. We have no plans to back down, so be on the look-out for a petition, a campus-wide teach-in or forum, and an awareness campaign. We are not taking “no” for an answer.