DU AND FOSSIL FUELS
Re: “Divestment push at DU is unwise,” Dec. 17 editorial.
Should trustees OK divestment?
I was struck by your editorial’s channeling of the University of Denver’s vice chancellor for legal affairs that “the mission of the university is to provide a good education for its students” and that divestment would “harm DU’s ability to serve its students.” The prominence accorded these comments reflect the outsized and increasingly ominous role of legal counsel on university campuses, and the fear of risk-taking and liability that’s become a primary ethic in higher education.
It also reflects a remarkably narrow and simplistic view of DU’s mission. I know, because I helped formulate it. DU’s mission is anchored by commitments to sustainability and the common good. Arguments for divestment are firmly embedded in these commitments, while also mindful of the imperative of making alternative investment decisions.
Soliciting a comment about divestment from someone committed to a more nuanced view of the university’s role in society — like a member of the Faculty Senate subcommittee that spent months researching the issue in advance of trustee task force hearings — would have added some balance to your editorial. It also might have refreshed what you unwisely disparage as a “stale” debate. Dean Saitta, Denver The writer is an anthropology professor at the University of Denver.
If, as the Independent Petroleum Association of America insists, DU’s prospective divestment of its endowment fund from the top 200 fossil-fuel companies is only a “symbolic gesture” that would not affect the price of energy industry stocks, one might well wonder why the IPAA is expending so much effort and money to “launch a counter-attack” against students and others advocating for that divestment. Methinks they doth protest too much!
However, if we would simply put a price on carbon, which would begin to reflect the social and environmental costs of extracting, processing and burning fossil fuels, the divestment movement would be unnecessary; the market would quickly take care of it. One might think the IPAA and the companies they represent, if they are really interested in developing alternative, renewable energy sources, might welcome such a market solution, since it would greatly enhance incentives for them to do so. Nelson Bock, Denver
In the recent Paris climate agreement, leaders from across the globe — including the presidents of China and the U.S., encouraged by Pope Francis and others — agreed that given the scientific consensus about the urgency of the climate crisis, nations must put themselves on a path toward de-carbonizing their economies. Investment advisers are moving rapidly to facilitate the global goal of holding temperatures to no more than a 2 degree increase, and are creating important transitional investment opportunities that do not encourage further exploration for or development of new sources of fossil fuels, most of which can never be burned. Institutions like DU can help to provide leadership in this transition, which is essential for the survival of mankind. Timothy E. Wirth, Boulder The writer is a former U.S. senator from Colorado.
The University of Denver’s trustees will vote next month on a plan to divest DU’s endowment of fossil fuels. Katie Wood, Denver Post file