Letter to the editor: Trustees’ obligations on investment

To the editor:

I am a former editor-in-chief of The Student Life. First, I wish to salute the current editorial leadership and large staff of TSL. It’s a highly professional, thorough, and thoughtful journalistic product. TSL has varied in quality over the years and decades since I graduated in 1965. It’s now the best it has ever been. Bravo to all involved!

Second, in response to the current article on fossil fuel divestiture, the [Pomona College] Board of Trustees has a fiduciary obligation to manage the college’s endowment properly, but it has other obligations as well, including to protect the planet from overheating. If our investment managers cannot find sufficiently high-return investment opportunities other than those based on fossil fuels, they can and should be replaced. The only question for the Board of Trustees should be, “How quickly can we liquidate our fossil fuel positions without otherwise violating our fiduciary responsibilities?”

A related topic for discussion is digital currencies; “mining” of bitcoins in 2021 consumed more energy globally than the entire country of Norway. Pomona College should avoid investment in any digital currency, NFT, or other investment product that is based on fossil fuel-based energy consumption.

Most bitcoin-type products require proof of intensive energy use before a newly mined bitcoin can be validated. This is destructive to the planet. Some digital currency products are moving to different algorithms than “Proof of Work,” which is the mechanism that most digital currency products use to protect their blockchain network from abuse. Such alternative algorithms can reduce the energy cost of a digital currency product by as much as 99 percent.

Pomona can accelerate that planet-saving move by establishing an investment policy that avoids investment in digital currency instruments that are created through intensive use of fossil fuels.

Lew Phelps PO ’65

Pasadena, CA

TSL accepts submissions for guest pieces and letters to the editor from community members at tsl.news/submit or by email to editor@tsl.news.

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