Regarding the University’s dissociation from some sectors of the fossil-fuel industry (On the Campus, July/August issue): In the middle 1970s, the CPUC, of which I was a member, considered a proposal to terminate investment of Princeton’s endowment in certain companies (e.g., gold miners) conducting business in racist countries (e.g., South Africa). Debate ensued on how to evaluate companies against each other. For example, should tobacco companies be divested? Are food companies evil in adding unnecessary sugar to foods?
The then-dean of the college, Neil Rudenstine ’56, cautioned that expensive outside legal counsel would be required for Princeton to pursue such judgmental investing. My recollection is that President Bill Bowen *58 decided not to take the proposal to the trustees.
Although I spent much of my career in the petroleum business, I want the world to move away from fossil fuels due to pollution and lack of sustainability. Princeton, however, should not engage in, or be distracted by, picking “good” and “bad” companies in managing its income. It remains the fiscal duty of the managers of the endowment to invest as well as possible in legal enterprises. Individuals are free to make choices about investing, possibly forgoing a higher return. Managers of other people’s money should not.