Students, faculty gather to urge divestment from fossil fuels

Approximately 70 Whitman students and faculty gathered on the steps of Memorial earlier this evening to ask Whitman to divest from fossil fuels.

Over 70 students expressed support for divestment from fossil fuels today by gathering at Memorial Building.  Photos by Marie von Hafften.

Over 70 students expressed support for divestment from fossil fuels today by gathering at Memorial Building. Photos by Marie von Hafften.

“Our thought is that by divesting from these companies is we can destabilize the social support for fossil fuels and invest in other sustainable forms of energy,” said junior Claire Meints, who is one of the leaders of the divestment campaign.

The divestment campaign is part of a national Fossil Free campaign organized by 350.org, a national organization which works to raise awareness of climate change and encourage action.

“To me, divestment is a very practical and symbolic gesture. Considering that Whitman brands itself as an environmentally conscious campus, it seems hypocrtical to invest in fossil fuel companies,” said junior Helen Angell, who participated in the demonstration.

After the demonstration, the four students leaders of the campaign met with Treasurer Peter Harvey to discuss the feasibility of divestment.

Student leaders of the divestment effort, including@, answer questions and thank students and faculty for their support.

Student leaders of the divestment effort, including Erika Longino ’16 (second from right) and Claire Meints ’14 (far right), answer questions and thank students and faculty for their support

Harvey said the meeting went well, and that his main role was facilitating a conversation between student leaders and Whitman’s trustees, who are ultimately responsible for investment decisions. The trustees will be on campus next week for their regular February meeting.

Harvey said that divestment is complicated because Whitman’s endowment is spread across a number of different managers, each of whom invest it in funds which may hold small pieces of hundreds of different companies.

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While he said the decision was ultimately up to trustess, he questioned whether divestment was the best way to address climate change.

“I have conversations with students every year about, ‘Why don’t we divest from fossil fuels, or … companies that violate child labor laws,” he said. The actual divestment process, however, would require the college to change its entire strategy for managing the endowment.

Still, student leaders are optimistic that they can successfully change college policy.

“We’re directly supporting companies with our money and, really, money is power,” said first-year Erika Longino, one of the student organizers. “I’m in support of pulling out of fossil fuel companies. It’s really difficult to do, so we need a lot of support to do so.”

For a more in-depth look at Whitman’s divestment campaign, including a list of colleges that have divested from fossil fuels, please see our article from January 24, 2013. Shelly Le contributed additional reporting.

 

 

 




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Responses


Fossil Free Whitman Faculty and Students Unite for Divestment – Fossil Free Feb 14, 2013 17:40 PM

[...] Over 70 students and faculty expressed support for divestment from fossil fuels today by gathering at Memorial Building. Read more at the Whitman Pioneer. [...]


The Pioneer | Whitman news since 1896. » Board of Trustees States the College will not Divest from Fossil Fuel Companies Feb 8, 2014 23:04 PM

[…] little over a year after various student and faculty discussions began regarding Whitman’s divestment against fossil fuels, the Whitman Board of Trustees released an official statement on the movement, […]


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