EDITORIAL: University’s eco-friendly plan is facade
Money is administration’s priority, not environment
After the leaking of the Paradise Papers last month, the Rutgers community was informed that in order to avoid paying domestic taxes on its endowment money, the University was — EnCap Energy Capital Fund IX-C, that invests in oil and gas companies.
This news came as a shock to some, considering the University’s commitment to an environmentally friendly 2030 Master Plan and the administration’s pledge to support the “We Are Still In” campaign, which supports the implementation of the Paris climate accords on college campuses after President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the international agreement. To some, these contradictions between how Rutgers appears outwardly and how it behaves behind closed doors is unsettling.
By promoting a plan for renewable energy on campus and then covertly going against that plan by investing in fossil fuels, the University’s actions seem hypocritical — but only when one assumes that the University is implementing a plan for renewable energy in the name of environmental ethics. If the administration’s main goal is not a positive environmental impact, but rather fiscal pragmatism, then they are not necessarily acting hypocritically — they are simply acting unethically, which is equally bad.
The University has presumably saved millions as a result of investing in offshore accounts to avoid domestic taxes, which in turn would leave more money to be spent on the school’s expansion and improvement. According to a Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) report, by reducing its carbon footprint by 444,509 metric tons of carbon dioxide since 2009, Rutgers—New Brunswick has saved in operational expenses.
When viewing the University’s actions through a lens that includes the oil investments, we can see that Rutgers’ plan to go green is likely not about the environment, but most likely about the money. The administration’s projected image of eco-friendliness may be merely a facade to keep the community’s eye off of its apparent miserliness.
Even if the University only plans to go green for the sake of saving money, it is still important that environmentally-friendly policies are adopted and implemented. If Rutgers cuts down on its fossil fuel emissions, the endowment money would likely still be invested in oil. While the University still contributes to fossil fuel emissions and climate change by investing in such companies, at least the school’s total environmental impact can be reduced through proper policy.
The University is savvy when it comes to saving money and managing to keep tuition reasonable, and students surely appreciate the hopeful long-term goals of the administration. With that said, it is disheartening to see a blatant lack of transparency on Rutgers’ end. The University has yet to make a statement regarding the Paradise Papers and the information that was revealed. If the administration was to do so and explain the method to its madness or why its contradictory behavior is the best course of action, perhaps it would be able to garner more respect from the community. As of now, we are left with only the clear fact that the University says one thing, and does another.
RUSA and the Rutgers community must continue to push for green policies and 100 percent renewable resources. We cannot directly control what the University itself does behind closed doors, but we can keep fighting for what we believe is the right thing to do. When it comes to protecting the environment, there is only so much that the community itself can do. Despite Rutgers’ involvement in the “We Are Still In” pledge, we are still waiting on the administration to show us that it is, in fact, in.
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