Alan Chartock | I Publius: Williams College should follow example of local church and divest

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> The First Congregational Church in Williamstown, right in the middle of Williams College, has done the right thing. It has decided to divest itself of fossil fuel stocks, which represent a great deal of money, in its endowment funds. The Williams College board, on the other hand and despite a student push, has refused to do so.

Divestment in the name social sanity is never an easy thing to do. Trustees are counted on to be fiscally prudent. Comptrollers of various states, when pressed to divest this or that stock, have often said that they are tasked with bringing the best fiscal return to the state's taxpayers. They say, "Our hands are tied — it would not be fiscally prudent for our citizens, who depend on us to give them the best fiscal return."

So, was the Williams College board of trustees in the wrong in refuse to divest? As a matter of fact, it was. It was, to use an unfortunate phrase, potentially dead wrong.

Al Gore won a Nobel Prize warning us about what we are doing to ourselves. The ice caps are melting, the seas are rising, the scientific community recognizes the danger and yet, in the name of a few pennies, we continue our bad behavior.

Provide for a future

Long ago, boards of one kind or another divested themselves of killer tobacco stocks even when they were making good returns for this or that stock portfolio. So who are the people who are sitting on the board of Williams College? They are, with a few exceptions, good people with a great deal of money.

Many of them have children and grandchildren. The whole idea of sitting on a Williams College board is to provide for a future for the young people who go there and, presumably, for all the other citizens of the world. This was a golden opportunity to do good and they blew it.

All across the country, college students are in revolt. These young people go to liberal arts institutions and are taught about social justice but sometimes when the students challenge the system, the colleges and universities simply can't comply.

Many institutions are named after people like Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who did terrible things to American Indians in his day. Students demanded that his name be taken off the name of the college. A similar thing is going on at Princeton where the Woodrow Wilson School is located. We always knew the guy was dead wrong about African-Americans and even spoke well of the Ku Klux Klan. It's hard to argue with the protesters' position, though it is unlikely they will get their wishes granted.

The other problem is that some students want to censure the right of free speech. That shouldn't be allowed. In the meantime, Williams should divest because global warming threatens our very existence.

Lenox Library's loss

Not that far away from Williamstown is Lenox, where the more than competent Sharon Hawkes was fired as the library director. Now she has been hired by the Nahant Public Library. Writer Clarence Fanto tells us that there were no less than nine semi-finalists for the job and the board recognized quality when they saw it. We were very distressed when the Lenox Library board fired Hawkes and we said so. I hope that the members of the Lenox Library are sleeping well.

In yet another story, the aforementioned Eagle writer Clarence Fanto recently wrote that Donald Trump doesn't deserve to be elected. I certainly think my friend Clarence is correct about that but I am not going to say that he won't be elected.

This is the age of name recognition, know nothing-ism and television. Don't kid yourself. It could happen. What is happening internationally can only help the man as he spews half truths, lies and insults.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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