In December, this editorial board argued that the merits of divestment from fossil fuel companies were impossible to evaluate so long as data on how the College’s endowment is invested remained obscure. Now that we have the facts, the case for divestment has little ground to stand on. 

About 1.4 percent of Bowdoin’s $902.4 million endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies. If the College were to divest, a full quarter of the endowment would have to be transferred away from high-performing commingled funds. This would mean lower annual returns, a lower operating budget, and a big hit to the endowment overall. 

If the College had invested exclusively in fossil free funds, its average annual rate of return would have been 5 percent lower over the past decade, and Bowdoin’s endowment would be at least $100 million smaller.

Annual returns on the endowment allow the College to function as it does. Each year, Bowdoin spends a portion of the endowment on the operational budget, which we hope to recoup in annual returns. Despite what the size of the football team’s budget might suggest, Bowdoin does not have money to waste.The losses incurred from divestment would have to be compensated for elsewhere, likely by cuts to financial aid, staff salaries or both. However noble a cause divestment may be, these are not sacrifices we are willing to make, and the students campaigning for divestment should not be so cavalier about the implications of their proposal.

We agree with Green Bowdoin Alliance that eliminating the consumption of fossil fuels is a crucial goal that must be achieved in the immediate future. But this does not mean Bowdoin should lead the charge. If the College does elect to divest, it will be a meaningful gesture that is unlikely to impact long-term change. The combined investments of all college endowments in the country make up only 0.1 percent of total investments in U.S. oil and gas industries.

Climate change is an unfortunate reality that few on this campus would refute, and we have already begun to see its effects in unusual weather patterns and natural disasters around the world. But divesting would do virtually nothing to abate carbon emissions, and would hurt the Bowdoin community much more than it would help combat climate change.

We commend the students involved with the Green Bowdoin Alliance for their persistence in pursuing action. Their commitment to sustainability is laudable, and we urge them to continue pushing Bowdoin for more practical ways of mitigating climate change. The College has invested over $11 million in sustainable initiatives in the last five years, and the Green Bowdoin Alliance should work with administrators to find solutions that make sense for the campus. 

Instead of offering up the endowment for the sake of a symbolic gesture, the College should instead continue its efforts to maximize returns and put that money to work for pragmatic sustainability projects.

The editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Nora Biette-Timmons, Garrett Casey, Linda Kinstler, Sam Miller, Sam Weyrauch and Kate Witteman.