At this year’s Harvard-Yale football game on November 23, more than 100 students and alumni stormed the field at halftime to urge their universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. I am writing to make the same demand of my own alma mater.
Just as Exxon Mobile and the Chevron Corporation are in the business of selling oil and natural gas, Duke University is in the business of educating students so they can achieve their future goals. Tragically, the otherwise bright prospects of my fellow Blue Devils will be partly dimmed by the dramatic consequences of burning fossil fuels. How can Duke reconcile its mission of preparing students for the future with investment strategies that indicate tacit approval for an industry whose practices directly threaten that future? What kind of message does it send when Duke talks about going carbon-neutral by 2024 while continuing to provide fossil fuel companies with the funds they need to expand production of planet-warming substances?
At the University’s Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility (ACIR) open forum in October, Committee Chair Lawrence Baxter commented that divesting from fossil fuels would be merely a “symbolic statement,” but symbolic statements matter. It matters when a University with a reputation like Duke’s signals that fossil fuels are a morally acceptable investment. It matters that Harvard and Yale students and alumni disrupted their biggest sports event of the year to express outrage over their institutions’ fossil fuels investments. And though I am just one person, it matters that I am pledging to no longer donate to my beloved alma mater until it divests from fossil fuels. I hope that others will join me; perhaps then our collective action will be more than just “symbolic.”
Brandon Levy graduated with the Class of 2014.