Money or Morals? Students Debate Divestment Petition

When asked about the motivation for the divestment petition that has garnered hundreds of signatures from the student body, Cecilia Katzenstein ’16 said, “We see a discrepancy between Choate’s statement on sustainability and investing eight to nine percent of our endowment into fossil fuels, which has clearly been proven to be damaging to the environment. This is the reason we felt it is important to make this effort.” Katzenstein, in collaboration with Christopher Moeckel ’16 and others, spearheaded the petition.

Thus far, the petition has progressed from a grassroots campaign to a proposal being seriously considered by the administration. According to Katzenstein, “We met with Dr. Curtis, who was extremely receptive to all our ideas. He was clearly ready to work with students and the administration to get the ball rolling on the divestment process.” She continued, “We now have a slot to speak to the Board of Trustees next fall, and it looks like we’re on the path to divestment. We don’t really need to combat the administration or the Board of Trustees because we’re all on the same team working together now.”

When the petition circulated campus, it sparked much debate among students. According to James Gibson ’16, “Divesting from fossil fuels is not going to do too much. I can’t see what exactly it would help, besides improving Choate’s image.” He added, “The oil market is not going to dissipate just because Choate drops out.”

Brendan Ferguson’16 remarked, “The school has an obligation to do what is in the best interest of the school, and if investing in oil is one of the most lucrative investments, then I think it is within the school’s right to help maintain its infrastructure.” He continued, “It’s the moral verses monetary benefit, but at the end of the day, Choate is a company.”

However, other students believe in the purpose of the petition. Christopher Moeckel estimates that the petition received 250 student signatures the first night it became public. Luke Bazemore ’16 commented, “Divestment is a matter of principle. I agree with it 1000%!” Ryan Musto ’16, said, “You would think that Choate cares about making its investments environmentally friendly.”

The petition and divestment as a whole is a small step when it comes to solving climate change. According to Moeckel, “Divesting will not do much because Choate is a small school. But we’re hoping to send the message to people that the fossil industry’s complicit involvement with climate change while systemically denying its existence is not right.”

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