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Swarthmore_Divestment_SitInFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

19 March 2015

Contact: Stephen O’Hanlon, sohanlon22@gmail.com, Swarthmore Mountain Justice

Over 40 Students and Alumni Begin Sit-In in Swarthmore College Investments Office Calling for Divestment of $1.8 Billion Endowment from Fossil Fuels

 

SWARTHMORE, PA — Early this morning, Swarthmore Mountain Justice launched the first ever extended sit-in for fossil fuel divestment on the campus that birthed the now global divestment campaign, kicking off a historic spring of escalating nonviolent action throughout the student divestment movement. The 37 students and 6 alumni are asking the Swarthmore Board Investment Committee Chair Chris Niemczewski and Board Chair Gil Kemp to return to the negotiating table and agree to end the College’s investments in a rogue industry that violates Swarthmore’s Quaker values and recklessly imperils a just and sustainable future for our generation.

 

“It is unconscionable for Swarthmore, as an institution of higher education with a commitment to social responsibility, to invest in an industry that is actively destabilizing the future that our education is meant to prepare us for,” said Sophia Zaia, a freshman and sit-in organizer.

 

Swarthmore Mountain Justice is one of the largest campaigns in the College’s history: 1,100 faculty and alumni, along with 970 students (61% of the student body), have signed a petition for divestment along with over, have called on the College’s Board of Managers to divest from fossil fuels. In consultation with the VP of Finance, Swarthmore Mountain Justice prepared a proposal tailored specifically to our endowment structure for how Swarthmore can fully divest by 2020, the same year that global emissions must peak in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Despite this, the board rejected this historic opportunity to show international leadership on climate,” said Chris Malifronti, a freshman and sit-in organizer.

 

“We cannot stand idly by as Mr. Niemczewski and Board Chair Gil Kemp continue to prevent the Board of Managers from responding to the mandate from the Swarthmore community to align our investments with our values,” said Guido Girgenti, a senior and sit-in organizer.

 

“We are one of many campaigns that will be taking nonviolent direct action for divestment this spring,” said Sara Blazevic a senior and sit-in organizer. “This international movement is calling for a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards reinvestment in community-led solutions at the frontlines of poverty and pollution.”

 

Recently, Swarthmore’s Board of Managers hired investments expert Gregory Kats to advise on sustainability initiatives. Mr. Kats responded with a public call for fossil fuel divestment. “The Board should take the recommendation of their own advisor,” said May Dong, a freshman and a sit-in organizer.

“Our goal is to engage Mr. Kemp and Mr. Niemczewski in a productive dialogue on how to move forward on fossil fuel divestment,” said Stephen O’Hanlon, a sophomore and sit-in organizer. “But to ensure this dialogue is productive, Mr. Kemp and Mr. Niemczewski must reckon with the increasingly deadly impacts on our world’s most marginalized communities and the possibility of an uninhabitable future for our generation. Our action today reflects the urgency of this crisis.”

 

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Swarthmore Mountain Justice (swatmj.org) is a student group at Swarthmore College and founded the first fossil fuel divestment campaign. There are now over 500 fossil fuel divestment campaigns worldwide.  Swarthmore Mountain Justice is calling on the Swarthmore College Board of Managers to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in just and sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

 

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We are a group of students, faculty, and alumni calling on the Swarthmore Board of Managers to divest our endowment from the “Carbon Underground 200,” which includes the 200 fossil fuel companies (including oil, natural gas, and coal) with the largest carbon reserves.

Our Proposal:

  1. Immediately begin a process that will achieve a fossil fuel free endowment by 2020, the same year that global carbon emissions must peak if the world is to avoid catastrophic climate change. As the world moves toward a more sustainable future, it is unconscionable for Swarthmore to remain invested in fossil fuels. (For more detailed information, read our full proposal)
  2. Reinvest at least 1 percent of the endowment into community and renewable energy solutions, including community development financial institutions and revolving loan funds. Feedback on allocation will be provided by campus stakeholders working through the Committee on Investor Responsibility.

Fossil fuel corporations violate countless health, safety, and environmental regulations, the burdens of which are usually borne by low-income communities and communities of color. Swarthmore Mountain Justice strives to work in solidarity with communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, burning, transportation, and waste. The fossil fuel industry is also one of the primary culprits of the climate crisis and corrupts our political system with incredible financial influence. A large-scale divestment movement not only cuts into that financial power, but it also affects these companies on a political and moral level. We refuse to stand by while our school invests in the destruction of communities by deadly fossil fuels and climate change. Learn more about our campaign.

It is time for Swarthmore to become a true leader in the struggle for climate justice. Swarthmore has the opportunity to take a bold stand for a just and sustainable future by refusing to support the very companies that are destroying that future.

Have Questions? Read our FAQ.

Want to get in contact with us? Our email is SwarthmoreMJ (at) gmail.com