I was dismayed and distressed to read President Eisgruber’s assertion that Princeton will not divest from fossil fuels because “it’s not our job to make political statements with our endowment.” His statement perpetuates the dangerous notion that protecting our planet is and should be a political issue. And yet, the forces of global climate change march on, unperturbed by our political divisions. This is a matter of ethics and values, not politics. If we are to make a dent in global warming, every ethical person and entity must do all they can to protect the planet. While an individual can reduce, reuse, and recycle, Princeton can divest of fossil fuels and invest in renewable technologies.
By saying “not our job,” Princeton trustees are either denying that climate change is an issue, denying that they have an obligation to invest ethically, and/or denying that Princeton has a role to play in shaping our world. No matter their rationale, our trustees are effectively covering their eyes and ears and abdicating responsibility. Princeton can make a difference. Our trustees can demonstrate leadership. They can do the ethical thing and divest of fossil fuels. If it’s not their responsibility, whose responsibility is it? What happened to “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity”? This motto is quoted by President Eisgruber himself on Princeton’s website (July 6, 2022). Perhaps President Eisgruber should add the caveat: “unless we can make more money by tossing our values to the wind.”