Questionable Motives

By Guest Contributor

The newspaper you are holding in your hands would read very differently had the school administration not deliberately shied away from an important civil dialog. This should reveal something to all of us about the attitude that the administration is taking on this issue, and even more importantly, why more people need to be talking about this right now.

One of the headlines that you might have found on the front page of this paper would read: Finance Experts Debate Value of Fossil Fuel Divestment, or more probably, Finance Experts Say Divestment “Can be Done”. But even though the administration promised one more panel and Middlebury College Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Patrick Norton confirmed that it would fall on Jan. 14, the panel did not happen.

Last year, the Middlebury College administration promised Divest Midd that the school would host three panels in total, the first with an array of professionals, a student and a representative from our investment manager, Investure. The second would feature students, and the third would be composed of financial experts. The first two have taken place already, and throughout the fall we were reassured that the third panel would happen. Yet, the date for the third panel has come and passed, and the administration did not host the panel. The only response we’ve heard from Norton is that the administration needs more time to reach out to speakers, many of whom were already identified by Divest Midd and the administration.

As is often the case, the real reason is more complicated. However, the reasons for having a third panel cannot be clearer. Finance experts are the ones who know the actual workings of how divestment can be done. They are the ones who know the whole business better than do either students or administrators and who really can use their expertise in making this decision about whether or not to divest completely from fossil fuels. Each colleges’ situation is unique. That is why Middlebury needs its own divestment panel with finance experts.

The most fundamental question when it comes down to divestment is this: should the school care about where its money is coming from, and where it is going? If our money comes from investing in companies that have questionable business ethics, or disrespect the consequences of their malpractices, does the school have a moral obligation to pull out their investments in these companies? So long as this tension is not resolved, we still have to commit ourselves to figuring out ways to at least ease this tension.

Yet, the administrators have postponed this important discussion indefinitely. Then we have to ask ourselves why. Are they afraid of an inconvenient truth? Why would they want to delay such an important conversation? Understandably, there are disincentives for the school to organize such a panel, because the status quo is less work and has lower risks. But are we, wware other students who care about the future of the College, along with all the staff and faculty who have a vision for this community, going to allow this to just happen? It doesn’t matter if you support divestment from fossil fuels or not, but how can the administrators be let off making a false procedural promise, until perhaps no meaningful actions regarding divestment can be taken by the end of the school year?

ADRIAN LEONG ’16 is from Hong Kong