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By Robert Thomicide

One important aspect of the democratic process is political activism as it allows government officials to know which issues are the most important. As a result of advances in technology and communication, political activism has become much more prevalent in the 21st century. Political activism doesn’t always lead to the best change, however. Take for instance the Divest movement, which has recently started at Binghamton University. While I do not wish to stop this group, the ideas and goals presented by this group are inherently flawed and detrimental to the university.

          So what is Divest Bing? According to their mission statement, Divest Bing are advocating for financial transparency as well as investment into “socially responsible funds.” The group lists a number of reasons for why they require financial transparency. These reasons include: fighting climate change, economic benefit, and ethical reasons. While these may seem like adequate justifications, they are not as significant as they would want you to believe. On the topic of climate change actions, countries such as China are far more likely to contribute to its effects than any investment from The Binghamton University foundation alone. In terms of economics, it’s safe to say that the financial consults of the Foundation know much more of what’s profitable than any student activist. Finally, in regards to ethics, considering Divest Bing has yet to name a fully ethical fund, or company, or even provide some sort of standard to measure the ethics of a company. There’s no use in arguing over this. A few companies mentioned by divest include defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and BAE systems. However there are many issues that come with protesting these firms. Firstly, these firms are massive employers in the Triple Cities community. This includes Binghamton students in some of the most demanding majors such as mechanical and electrical engineering, so we really shouldn’t arbitrarily limit the employment options of these students. In addition, these firms are primarily employed by the government so if you take issue with the use of these products then you should take your activism to DC. What’s ironic though is that most of the politicians supported by the individuals in divest oppose president Trump’s agenda which involves the reduction of these unethical tactics abroad. Aside from their biographical statements, there are many other problems with divest.

One of the biggest problems with divest is that they don’t even understand the issue they’re protesting, and spread false information as a result. My favorite example of this is their banner stating “where is our money?” The answer is: your money is in Albany. Tuition is collected by the SUNY system, and then the SUNY system decides where your money goes from there. The Binghamton Foundation receives no tuition or fee proceeds from students. Instead, the foundation manages donations from alumni and philanthropists, and exists because Binghamton University is not allowed to collect donations by law. Therefore, Divest is trying to disclose where other people’s money is going, and they have no right to that information. Another example of their misinformation is the claim that Binghamton is invested in the fossil fuel industry. This assumption is something they treat as fact just because other colleges have done the same. When they make this claim, it garners unwarranted support  

Beyond simple misunderstandings, Divest has also displayed a high level of hypocrisy. The most egregious example is in their demands related to something called “pilot funds.” Pilot funds are monies set aside by the University to compensate the community for additional costs the University creates. Typical uses for the funds would be compensation to the police, public schools, and public transit. According to Divest, these funds went to a town advisory board and their initiatives were unsatisfactory. This may be true, but that isn’t what matters in this case. Divest also demanded that these funds be used for the PLOT organization, an organization they are directly involved in. Divest demands transparency from the Binghamton Foundation, while simultaneously demanding University funding behind closed doors! This is not divesting. This is diverting. I believe that even if these funds were allocated in a community meeting, Republicans would be completely silenced. From my experience, even associating with Republicans disqualifies oneself from their discussions. The biggest reason PLOT should not receive any pilot funds is that PLOT and their associated groups are a reason pilot funds are needed in the first place. It is associated organization PLOT that disrupted a community parade and required additional policing; it is the College Progressives and Divest Bing that demand longer bus routes, creating increased pollution and gasoline costs; and it is the Progressives’ information session protests that make recruiting difficult for local companies. To me, these factors should disqualify such groups from receiving pilot funds. 

My last point is one most people forget. Investment is more than just buying and selling securities. It is also choosing to buy a company’s products, and contribute to their revenues. Most Americans buy products produced with copious amounts of fossil fuel and drive cars to and from work or school. So unless people are okay with drastically higher gas prices and heating and electricity bills, no one can truly divest from fossil fuels. In fact, it is the sales of fossil fuel that drives up a company’s earnings per share, and encourages investment. Therefore, I think everyone should consider their own actions before dictating how other people should invest their own money. 

So what can we take from all of this? Well, Divest Bing can be seen as an example of all the issues with direct democracy. Here we have a vocal group which holds and spread many misinformed and dangerous ideas. If this group were to get large enough to be impactful than some of these ideas may be implemented resulting in a net detriment. As a result, the best way to fight these ideas is with logic, reason, and persuasion, which is the main force behind this article. So to all who are reading this don’t forget to think before you act.

Mission statement

Bing u financials

Bing foundation financials

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