Divestment vote might be meaningless

Matt Murphy

Of all the matters students could vote on in the recent Associated Students elections, divestment was undoubtedly the most high-profile.

It received the most campus media attention, including the student action it took to get the measure, which suggests divestment of University Foundation funds from fossil fuel companies, on the ballot.

Of course, high-profile is a relative term when referring to collegiate student government elections. At a 23.9 percent, Chico State’s voter turnout is considered high among college elections.

I won’t even get into how perplexing it is that of the 3,787 students that voted, only 75 percent could be bothered to click “yes” or “no” in regard to divestment.

Those that did vote overwhelmingly passed the measure to divest by 80 percent. Mission accomplished, no?

No, I’m afraid not.

Unfortunately, the divestment measure does nothing more than voice the opinion of the student body. It merely gives A.S. permission to submit a resolution recommending divestment to the board of governors of the foundation.

Chico State has done an admirable job of becoming an environmentally friendly university. However valiant the efforts of those involved in drawing attention to divestment may be, there are certain truths in life that cannot be escaped.

And there is no greater truth in this world than “money talks.”

The University Foundation is run like a business, and it has donors and investors to please.

Those donors and investors will not continue to be involved with an enterprise that isn’t making money. Without fossil fuel investments, the University Foundation will lose a significant chunk of its return on investment.

Additionally, the University Foundation provides money for student scholarships that exist because of the foundation’s investments. It may not seem fair, but students will have decreased funds until replacements can be found if it agrees to divest.

But there’s not much that makes more money than oil these days.

There are times in life when it is our social duty to fight to protect what is right. Make no mistake, this is one of those times.

This, though, is a world that looks at the bottom line, and the bottom line only. It can be difficult to argue morality when that line is so low.

Matt Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or @matthewcharlesz on Twitter.