The University of Pennsylvania refused to divest its fossil fuel assets, and school officials argued oil is not the “moral evil” that protesters associate with “genocide.”
The school’s Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Divestment, which consists of faculty and students, announced Thursday that the social costs associated with investing fossil fuels do not rise to the level of a moral corruption.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees David Cohen wrote in a letter to Fossil Free Penn that the “moral evil” protesters linked to oil companies like Exxon Mobil do not rise to a level “on par with apartheid or genocide.”
“While the Trustees recognize that the ‘bar’ of moral evil presents a rigorously high barrier of consideration, we are resolute in our belief that such a high barrier must be maintained so that investment decisions and the endowment are not used for the purpose of making public policy statements,” Cohen wrote.
Penn is not the only university balking when activists call oil the apotheosis of sin.
Stanford University, for instance, used a nuanced approach when it decided against divestment in May, calling oil purges neither a moral imperative nor the ethical thing to do.
Stanford’s Board of Trustees established an Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL) made up of faculty members, students, and alumni to help the trustees determine whether to purge the university’s oil assets.
The group concluded, “That it could not evaluate whether the social injury caused by the fossil fuel industry outweighs the social benefit it provides,” so it advised the school not to divest its fossil fuel assets. The board agreed with APIRL’s position.
Penn’s move came despite campus activists bemoaning the evils of fossil fuels.
More than 30 percent of undergraduates voted in a non-binding referendum on divestment last year, with nearly 100 percent of votes shifting toward divestment. The referendum passed with more than double the amount of votes needed.
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