Students and faculty came together on Monday to debate the merits of fossil fuel divestment. Refuel Our Future, a student group spearheading efforts to convince the University to divest its endowment in fossil fuels, and Alpha Kappa Psi, the business fraternity, co-hosted the debate. Divestment would entail the University getting rid of any stocks in fossil fuel companies. Professors Bruce Hamilton and Cindy Parker partnered with two members of the Woodrow Wilson Debate Council to argue their sides of the case.
The editorial board commends Refuel Our Future and Alpha Kappa Psi for directing increased student attention toward this important issue. Climate change is a real problem and needs to be addressed. Hopkins, with its history of scientific research and world-renowned faculty, is a perfect place to start. This debate is important not only for its substance, but also for its form. Involving both students and professors contributes to a more comprehensive and inclusive dialogue, and it helps to bridge the faculty-student divide here at Hopkins.
But Hopkins has more than just great professors who conduct some of the world’s most impressive research; it also has some pretty smart students. Often, students bring new ideas to the table. The ideas of Generation X will inevitably differ from those of Generation Y. To this end, it is particularly important that this debate featured representatives from each cohort. Progressive, reform-minded activism is one of this generation’s most notable features, and we’d be mistaken to ignore it.
This debate also illustrates the importance of faculty-student interaction. Allowing a faculty member to debate alongside a student is unfortunately a rare occurrence here at Homewood — and in the rest of the U.S. for that matter. Too often, professors are regarded by students as talking heads at the front of a large lecture hall who retreat to their offices to continue their research after completing their teaching obligations. Office hours offer some opportunity for interaction, but students and faculty are largely worlds apart. Essays and midterm exams are returned with a few comments and grades, often marked by TAs. European universities like Oxford and Cambridge realized centuries ago that this model of teaching would be ineffective. Hopkins, along with the rest of the country, needs to do the same. This debate is a good start.
Student involvement is not only conducive to education, but it’s also a requisite component in the discussion about divestment. After all, it’s our money that funds the University. Any final decision made by the administration must account for student opinion.