A complete lack of concern with our request –S.A.V.E. to VSU President McKinney

S.A.V.E. never gives up, and the VSU Foundation provided fuel for the fight. -jsq

November 13, 2013

Dr. William J. McKinney
Valdosta State University

Dear President McKinney,

Thank you very much for agreeing to be a part of our ceremony for the new solar canopy this Friday. We are excited for it, and we are glad that you will be able to come. We definitely appreciate your support, and we hope to have a nice turnout!

As happy as we are about VSU’s continuing efforts to “go green,” I am writing to you in regard to S.A.V.E.’s ongoing fossil fuel divestment campaign and the recent response we received from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the VSU Foundation. If you have not yet read the letter, I have attached a copy for your convenience.

We were clearly disappointed to hear that our request had been denied, but what troubled us the most was the condescending tone used by Mr. Edwards in the last part of his letter. To end his letter on University (not Foundation) letterhead with sarcasm and cavalier dismissal of our concerns is unacceptable, especially as we have acted in a respectful manner throughout this process. Within his response, Mr. Edwards downplays the importance of practicing social responsibility and belittles the validity of past divestment campaigns that have been used to counteract injustices such as South Africa’s Apartheid regime, which represented an inhumane and repressive system that needed to be challenged.

We also find the apparent lack of interest and concern with the scientific and social basis of our request troubling. As students at an institution of higher learning, we, collectively, decided to make an effort to ensure that our university better represent the knowledge and values being taught within our classrooms. Our request was received and denied within the span of twelve days. We do not believe this is an adequate amount of time to fully consider and research the feasibility and importance of a request meant to address an issue as urgent and distressing as climate change.

Last night S.A.V.E. also hosted a panel discussion on global warming and the divestment movement. In Mr. Edwards’ response he challenges the intellectual honesty of the IPCC report referenced in our request. The report was discussed and analyzed, in depth, by a climatologist at the event. Subsequently, panelists provided evidence supporting the fact that socially responsible investing does not harm, and may even better, the returns of an investment portfolio. Thus, we made a strong case for the cause that we are advocating. However, not a single member from the Board of Trustees was in attendance, which further suggests that there seems to be a complete lack of concern with our request.

The question is, do you feel that this response was acceptable and how do you plan on addressing it?

We will continue our campaign, and we ask that you please assist us in ensuring that this conversation does not end. Issues of transparency have disabled us from reaching out to the majority of the board, so we are asking you, as our president, to ensure that the Board of Trustees and Mr. Edwards, as Chairman, take part in healthy and honest dialogue.

In closing I would like to share two quotes from our panel discussion on divestment with you:

“It is unethical to claim that there should be no limits on investment sources—otherwise why not invest in crack cocaine, blood diamonds, or human trafficking? Society agrees that such support is wrong, therefore such investments are prohibited. The effect of coal-burning on the planet is threatening the existence of humans and other life, and stopping it now is not only ethical, but intelligent and sane.”

“I have difficulties to believe that even the most conservative BOT members prefer to invest in stocks connected with, say, an Apartheid-like regime or the fracking industry, if better alternatives are available. Fiduciary responsibility and social and environmental responsibilities do not have to contradict each other.”


Danielle Jordan

3 thoughts on “A complete lack of concern with our request –S.A.V.E. to VSU President McKinney

  1. Mary

    The panel discussion was incredibly informative, with so many diverse perspectives it was the key to becoming environmentally conscious about the issue of fossil fuels at the mass production and consumption rate our world is currently under. Being a student of Valdosta State, I was highly disappointed that President McKinney was nowhere to be seen because I know he would have left a changed man (hopefully). I am excited to meet him at the solar panel ceremony Friday -hoping that he will actually come- because this is an issue that I feel very strongly about and it would comfort me to know that the President of my University shares the same concerns.
    I commend all 4 professors that participated in the discussion last night; I am especially honored to have a shared profession with Dr. Williams -his plea for social movements demonstrated one of the main reasons that I joined Sociology!

  2. Thomas

    I want to thank the students of Valdosta State University, and especially S.A.V.E., for their passionnate and scientific efforts to get the VSU to divest from fossil fuels. As the intellectual beacon on the hill, VSU has a responsiblity to set an example of environmental stewardship for all of South Georgia. I am confident that Dr. McKinney, Wayne Edwards, and the board of trustees will adhere to VSU’s slogan of “engaged innovation” by divesting from fossil fuels and building VSU’s reputation as a 21st century university.

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