Letter to The Editor: In the dispute over divestment, the institutional values of Loyola are at stake

Colin Martin, [email protected]

Dear Editor:

Based on my familiarity with the national Divest movement and its principles, I would like to share some perspectives regarding the recent Maroon editorial published on May 6, titled, “Loyola should think hard before divesting.”

Contrary to last week’s editorial, Divest Loyola is not suggesting that the university spontaneously invest “$200 million” in a random social choice fund. Though hypothetical fear tactics where students have $700 added to their tuition may be appealing allegations, it is far from the suggested approach of Divest Loyola.

Loyola’s endowment is in fact roughly $266.2 million with about 4.95 percent of it in the fossil fuel industry — about $13 million. This sum is not hostage to one hypothetical investment. In its open petition to the Rev. Kevin Wildes, S.J., university president, Divest Loyola suggests that Loyola divest this small portion of its endowment within the next five years, and reinvest it in ethically responsible industries with adequate returns. This reinvestment timeframe leaves adjustment for adequate economic feasibility and profit, without the student body picking up the tab.

It’s fallacious to suggest that Divest Loyola is hoping to bring climate change or sea level rise to an immediate halt by divesting 4.95 percent of our small university’s endowment. The notion that divestiture from a minor shareholder like Loyola would somehow crumble the fossil fuel industry lacks an understanding of how the stock market works, as well as how divestiture has worked historically.

For example, student protests spread through college campuses in the 1980s pressuring their universities to divest from South African Apartheid. Once these universities divested, it was not an immediate end to the human rights atrocities taking place in South Africa. Student protest did, however, stimulate national discussion on the issue, and shift millions of dollars away from industries profiting from injustice. After realizing a loss in profits, these industries then complied with the demands of the shareholders, which stimulated political change.

According to the argument made by The Maroon’s editorial last week, investing in any profitable industry is acceptable. I challenge that assumption. The students of the Divest Loyola movement believe our endowment should hold true to the values of its principles.

Actually, so does Loyola. To assure that we are not invested unethically, Loyola holds a Restricted Endowment Investment Statement. On page six of that statement, the Ethical Investment Guidelines read “Investments held by the University will be examined periodically to ascertain whether the firms involved engaged in practices or procedures opposed to the ethical, social, and moral principles deriving from Loyola University’s heritage.”

The suggestion of abandoning these principles and continuing to invest in exploitative industries works against everything Loyola stands for. It also entails a contradiction to our Ethical Investment Guidelines as an institution. Our question to The Maroon’s editorial is, how many pieces of silver should we trade in for our ethical principals? To what degree exactly should Loyola be deriving support from private prisons and fossil fuel corporations, while they destroy communities and ecosystems in the state of Louisiana?

Because we have the privilege to study, Divest Loyola suggests a look at the fossil fuel divestment methods of universities such as Yale, Georgetown, UC Berkeley and of smaller schools, such as Dayton and Warren Wilson — all of which committed to partial or full divestiture from fossil fuels. Worldwide, 515 institutions have committed to divest from fossil fuels, totaling a divestment of about $3.4 trillion thus far.

The question is, why hold investments in regressive forms of energy and prison industries while universities around the world are thriving without them? Instead of arguing to maintain investments in the coal industry that is clearly collapsing — look at the stock market — here, Loyola has an opportunity to divest, and stand against the destruction of the planet on which all sentient beings depend. This principled stand could set us apart from other universities, providing an opportunity to increase our enrollment rates.

When it comes to climate action, Loyola needs to be on the right side of history. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis’s encyclical, he states, “There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.”

Loyola should set the ethical standard for other institutions to follow, in the same way that each Loyola student is taught to set an ethical standard in society. The transition of 4.95 percent of Loyola’s small endowment to socially responsible investments over five years is one way that Loyola can hold to our moral guidelines, while standing by the principles that we value most.


Colin Martin

Environmental studies senior