EDITORIAL: U. should invest in sustainability

In 2017, the Paradise Papers revealed that Rutgers has issued an irredeemable check to its students, a check that has come back marked insufficient funds. Rutgers was listed among the universities investing in EnCap Energy Capital Fund IX-C, a hedge fund based in the Cayman Islands that primarily invests in oil and gas companies, The Guardian reported.

Investment in the future of students should be intrinsic in the mission of a university, and it could be argued that for Rutgers to be complicit in the large-scale pollution of our environment is to turn its back on the future of all those under its influence and in its community. The moral and ethical obligation of a state educational institution demands a commitment to the betterment of its community, a commitment that Rutgers has, as it seems, backed with broken promises. Reasonable incremental change is ready to be made at Rutgers to directly confront the continual and perpetual environmental damage incurred by our collective actions and indifference, and if the University is to continue investing its endowment money in oil, such changes are the least that can be done.

But many would say that for the University’s endowment money to be invested in fossil fuels, the air around Rutgers has been polluted by hypocrisy. Prior to the disclosure of the University’s covert investments, Rutgers announced its environmentally friendly 2030 Master Plan and also pledged to support the We Are Still In coalition, which supports the implementation of the Paris climate accords on college campuses after President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from the international agreement, as reported by The Daily Targum.

In order for Rutgers' actions to match its claims and duties, the University ought to practice impact investing — making investments with not just the focus of earning financial returns but also with the intention of generating social and environmental impact. The MSCI KLD 400 Social Index, which tracks companies with high environmental and social impact, has outperformed the S&P 500 by 0.5 percentage points each year from May 1990 to March 2018. In light of that fact, divesting in oil would seemingly be a rather prudent move.

Rutgers should not only imitate the decisive steps made by many universities across the country, including Duke University who banned the use of disposable plastics at all 34 campus dining venues, but the University ought to also blaze its own environmentally friendly path.

On Sept. 27, a New Jersey Senate Committee approved a bill that would effectively ban New Jersey stores from distributing single-use plastic shopping bags, plastic drinking straws and polystyrene containers. Along with the ban on plastic products, the proposal would establish a 10-cent fee on single-use paper bags, which would fund a new Plastic Pollution Prevention Fund. Realistically, there is reasonable doubt that this bill will not survive the legislative process. Thus, the weight of leadership rests on the University’s shoulders. Ample opportunity to carry out its promises, fulfill its obligation and lead the state of New Jersey toward an unpolluted and sustainable future knocks at the gates of Rutgers. 

Policy implementations must be made to curb the use of plastic bags, plastic utensils, plastic straws and polystyrene (styrofoam) containers on campus. We cannot in good conscious continue to cling to our plastic bags in which our take out is cradled. Progress must be facilitated by an institution truly concerned with our future, change must be encouraged by Rutgers. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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