Faculty Deliver Open Letter to Board Signed by 92 Faculty

MJReception18

Photo Credit: Mindy Cheng

On Friday, February 20th, faculty members delivered an open letter signed by 92 faculty to the Board of Managers at the Faculty-Board reception. Read their full letter below. Faculty members can add their name here.

Swarthmore’s largest financial advisor, Cambridge Associates, recently announced that it would actively assist institutional investors to implement fossil fuel divestment. The door to fossil free investment is open to Swarthmore and the dozens of other schools whose endowments Cambridge manages. We call on Swarthmore College, as an institution deeply committed to justice, sustainability, and civic responsibility, to immediately reply to Cambridge’s offer and identify pathways to a fossil-free endowment.

As the Board of Managers has acknowledged, climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Climate change and our fossil fueled energy infrastructure cause millions of deaths every year and the potential damage wrought by unchecked fossil fuel extraction is unthinkable. We believe that Swarthmore must take leadership on this incredibly urgent, global problem. In order to diligently do so, we must consider fossil fuel divestment, particularly following the announcement by Cambridge Associates.

Following the Cambridge Associates announcement, the recent U.S-China climate deal, and the UN’s latest climate report, fossil fuel investments are in the public eye more than ever. If the world is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius – a commitment that can only be fulfilled by leaving 60%-80% of known carbon reserves in the ground — the fossil fuel industry will face a potential devaluation of up to 60%, according to the investment bank, HSBC. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels not only increases our endowment’s risk to the carbon bubble’s devaluation, but signals that we, as an institution, believe the fossil fuel industry is a legitimate long-term investment. This is the wrong message being sent at the worst time.

Fortunately, the tide is turning rapidly. 2014 has already been a historic year for the climate movement. Over 400,000 people, including over 200 Swarthmore students and faculty, joined in the People’s Climate March. The next day, the Rockefeller Foundation, built off the wealth of Standard Oil Company, divested. The fossil fuel divestment movement began here at Swarthmore just three years ago. Since then it has grown to 500 campaigns around the world. The movement has assembled a groundbreaking coalition of universities, cities, religious institutions, and world leaders including World Bank President Jim Yong-Kim, U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, and U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. The movement has begun to move large pools of money. Sweden’s AP2 and Norway’s public pension fund, totalling over $100 billion, divested.

In his recent letter to the college community, Board of Managers Chair Giles Kemp reiterated arguments made in May 2013 that divestment would slow the growth of our endowment’s by $10 to $15 million per year. This figure was based off the assumption that the College would need to move out of commingled funds and into indexed funds. While commingled funds screened against fossil fuels existed in May 2013, they have become much more widely available due to a rapid growth of institutional demand for fossil free investment. Now that Cambridge Associates has offered to assist Swarthmore in finding those individual managers offering fossil free investment opportunities, the Board’s claims are outdated.

Our endowment is one of our most powerful levers for social change. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we, as a community, must seriously engage with divestment.

We, the undersigned 92 faculty, call on Swarthmore’s Board of Managers to make a public commitment to fossil fuel divestment.

Peter Collings, Physics and Astronomy
Sibelan Forrester, Modern Languages and Literatures
David Cohen, Physics and Astronomy
Peter Schmidt, English Literature
Barry Schwartz, Psychology
Tessa Wegener, Modern Languages and Literatures
Les Sikos, Psychology
Stella Christie, Psychology
Jodie Baird, Psychology
Lara Cohen, English Literature
Bakirathi Mani, English Literature
Micheline Rice-Maximin, Modern Languages and Literatures
Deb Bergstrand, Mathematics and Statistics
Craig Williamson, English Literature
Carl Grossman, Physics and Astronomy
Sangina Patnaik, English
Benjamin Cherel, Modern Languages and Literatures
Allen Schneider, Psychology
Nathalie Anderson, English Literature
Jean-Vincent Blanchard, Modern Languages and Literatures
Christopher Fraga, Sociology and Anthropology
Giovanna Di Chiro, Environmental Studies
Lee Smithey, Peace and Conflict Studies
Mark Wallace, Religion
Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Sociology and Anthropology
Cheryl Grood, Mathematics and Statistics
Yvonne Chireau, Religion
Christy Schuetze, Sociology and Anthropology
Rachel Epstein, Mathematics and Statistics
Betsy Bolton, English
Milton Machuca-Galvez, Latin American Studies
Michele Reimer, Psychology
Peter Baumann, Philosophy
Cynthia Halpern, Political Science
Richard Eldridge, Philosophy
Eric Song, English Literature
Nick Kaplinsky, Biology
Vincent Formica, Biology
Alex Baugh, Biology
Eric Jensen, Physics and Astronomy
Luciano Martinez, Spanish
Amanda Bayer, Economics
Nanci Buiza, Spanish
Robert Weinberg, History
María Luisa Guardiola, Modern Languages and Literatures
Felipe Valencia, Spanish
Julia Vila, Spanish
Ganapathy Narayanaraj, Environmental Studies
Jose-Luis Machado, Biology
Brad Davidson, Biology
Thompson Bradley, Emeritus, Modern Language and Literatures
Alexandra Gueydan-Turek, French
Bruce Dorsey, History
Amy Graves, Physics and Astronomy
Jodi Schottenfeld-Roames, Biology
Sara Hiebert Burch, Biology
Elizabeth Vallen, Biology
Syd Carpenter, Art
Maya Nadkarni, Sociology and Anthropology
Shervin Malekzadeh, Political Science
Alan Berkowitz, Chinese
Kelly McConville, Mathematics and Statistics
Nathan Sanders, Linguistics
Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics
Ken Sharpe, Political Science
Daniel Grodner, Psychology
Logan Grider, Art
Farid Azfar, History
Joseph Gregorio, Music & Dance
Elaine Allard, Educational Studies
Nora Johnson, English
Edwin Mayorga, Educational Studies
Farha Ghannam, Sociology and Anthropology
Catherine Norris, Psychology
Tamsin Lorraine, Philosophy
Hugh Lacey, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Andrew Hauze, Music & Dance
Diego Armus, History
Jill Gladstein, Writing Program
Gwynn Kessler, Religion
Jamie Thomas, Linguistics
Lisa Smulyan, Educational Studies
Marjorie Murphy, History
Steven Hopkins, Religion
Thomas Whitman, Music and Dance
Helene Shapiro, Emerita, Mathematics and Statistics
Steven Piker, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology
Steve Viscelli, Sociology and Anthropology
Ellen Ross, Religion
Nina Johnson, Sociology and Anthropology
Jennifer Bradley, Educational Studies
Joy Charlton, Sociology and Anthropology

60 Swarthmore Students Pledge to Take Bold Action for Divestment

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

14 February 2015

Contact: Stephen O’Hanlon, 610-955-7398, sohanlon22@gmail.com, Swarthmore College Sophomore, Swarthmore Mountain Justice

60 Swarthmore College Students Pledge to Take Bold Action to Pressure Board to Divest College’s $1.8 Billion Endowment from Fossil Fuels

SWARTHMORE, PA — On Friday evening, dozens of students, faculty, alumni, and community supporters gathered to launch the national Divestment Escalation Pledge at Swarthmore College. Following the Swarthmore Board of Managers’ unwillingness to move forward with a proposal for divestment, over 50 students pledged to take bold action this spring to pressure the Board of Managers to divest the College’s $1.8 billion endowment from fossil fuels.

The event was part of an international day of action, Global Divestment Day. Thousands around the world took action calling on their cities, states, universities, and faith institutions to divest from fossil fuels.

Swarthmore Mountain Justice’s campaign has been active for over three years and was one of the first of a growing movement. On more than 500 campuses across the United States, students and faculty have organized to demand that their endowments divest from fossil fuels. At Swarthmore, the divestment campaign is growing too. 970 students, over 60% of the student body, nearly half of the faculty, and over 700 alumni have called on the Board to divest from fossil fuels.

On February 2nd, Swarthmore Mountain Justice brought a plan to the Board, developed in consultation with the Swarthmore College Finance and Investments Office, for how Swarthmore could divest by 2020. “It became clear that the Board had no intention of allowing any proposal for divestment to be discussed by the full Board,” Stephen O’Hanlon, a sophomore and member of the campaign said.

“Despite the mandate from the College community, the Board of Managers has repeatedly refused to move forward with divestment,” says Sara Blazevic, a senior and member of the campaign. “Over the past three years, we have met over 30 times with members of the Board and the administration. It’s clear now that negotiation alone is not going to lead us to fossil fuel divestment.”

This spring, Mountain Justice is preparing to take bold action calling on the Board to respond to the community mandate for divestment. “We know every successful social movement for justice and equality reaches this point – when negotiations can lead no further and when bold action becomes necessary to shine a spotlight on injustice and force those in power to take responsibility,” Guido Girgenti, a senior and member of the campaign said.

“By committing to escalate our campaign we are affirming Swarthmore’s values and Quaker heritage,” said Sophia Zaia, a freshman and member of the campaign. “By taking bold action to demand social justice, we are upholding the very values this school has helped foster in us and capitalizing on the best our education has to offer.”

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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 sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

Mountain Justice member Sara Blazevic talking about her work helping coordinate escalation across campuses nationwide during Swarthmore Mountain Justice teach-in and training on Feb 13th.

Peace and Conflict Studies Professor Lee Smithey speaking on the importance of social movements and the power of nonviolent direct action.

Response to Investment Committee Announcement

STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO RECENT INVESTMENT COMMITTEE ANNOUNCEMENT

12/7/14

Yesterday, after nearly 100 students delivered over 800 student signatures calling for divestment, the Board of Managers announced that our Investments Committee “acted to include our investment managers in the ongoing conversation” about the College’s climate initiatives: “the investment managers of our endowment have been asked to detail their methods of evaluating direct costs of climate change…and related [carbon] regulatory policies on future returns.”

We know that the climate crisis and climate regulations significantly threaten the viability of fossil fuel investments. If our Investments Committee begins to evaluate these threats, this can only lead to fossil fuel divestment.

The financial risk posed by unburnable carbon is clear. If we take the necessary action to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and leave 60% – 80% of current carbon reserves in the ground, roughly $20 trillion in assets will be stranded. Fossil fuel companies could be devalued by 40% to 60%, the investment bank HSBC estimates. U.K. Energy Secretary Ed Davey warned that fossil fuel stocks could be the “sub-prime assets of the future.” And UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres ‘79 notes that either “we will move to a low-carbon world because nature will force us, or because policy will guide us,” and that continued investment in fossil fuels despite this threat constitutes a “blatant breach of fiduciary duty.”

We applaud our Investments Committee for beginning the process of evaluating the effects of climate change and climate regulation on our endowment’s financial health. But the answer is clear: a growing chorus of political and financial leaders have sounded the alarm, warning of the significant financial risk posed by the carbon bubble.

The Board’s fiduciary duties obligate them to take action to protect action to protect the endowment from the risks posed by the carbon bubble. We look forward to working with the Board and our College’s financial advisors to create a plan for fossil fuel divestment.

Thank you all for marching with us yesterday and calling on the Board to what is right. We’ve reached this milestone because of your commitment and support. Onward.

board meme final

Students, Faculty, and Alumni Rally to Deliver 1000+ Signatures to Board of Managers

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On December 6th, over 100 Swarthmore students, faculty, and alumni rallied and then delivered a petition with over signatures of over 800 students, 300 alumni, and 55 faculty.


From the Daily Gazette (12/8/14):

Mountain Justice Delivers Petition Supporting Divestment to Board

By
December 8, 2014

Mountain Justice delivered a petition containing over 800 student signatures supporting divestment to the Board of Managers on the morning of Saturday, December 6. Mountain Justice also collected signatures from 305 alumni and 56 current faculty. Hours after the meeting, Board of Managers Chair Gil Kemp ‘72 announced that the Board committed $12 million dollars towards ensuring the new Biology, Engineering, and Psychology (BEP) building will reach a higher sustainability level than any current campus building.

Saturday’s action began in Parrish Parlors with remarks from Mountain Justice members Lewis Fitzgerald-Holland ‘18 and Guido Girgenti ‘15.

Fitzgerald-Holland spoke about getting involved with MJ after participating in the People’s Climate March in September. “Although it’s only my first semester at Swarthmore,” he said, “I’ve already experienced the incredible power that divestment has built across campus.” He then referenced energy companies like NRG who have stated the growing college divestment movement’s influence on their actions.

Girgenti spoke about his experience visiting New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward in 2008, three years after Hurricane Katrina. “Even three years after the storm,” he said, “only a small handful of families had been able to return, schools and grocery stores had not been rebuilt, entire blocks stood empty.” His remarks focused on low-income communities and communities of color, which he said “are the last to be evacuated and rebuilt.” Girgenti then asked for a short moment of silence in honor of those who have been affected by the climate crisis.

After Fitzgerald-Holland and Girgenti spoke, the roughly 100 students gathered posed for a photo on the front steps of Parrish. Students then walked through the rain past LPAC, around the Science Center quad, and into Kohlberg, chanting slogans like “Whose future? Our future!”. The crowd gathered outside the Scheuer room, as Mountain Justice members asked them to remain “respectfully quiet” while waiting for Board members.

After a short wait, Gil Kemp ‘72, Board Chair, and Susan B. Levine, Chair of the Board’s Social Responsibility Committee, came outside. Girgenti presented the petition to Kemp and Levine as the crowd quietly applauded. Kemp said he would take the signatures to the board, and said that the Board’s continued consideration of climate change and divestment was “without question, the result of [Mountain Justice’s] actions […] and the commitment that you have, that I think we share, on climate change as an issue.” “We may have some different tactics,” Kemp said, “but I think we have great agreement on the critical nature of climate change the need for Swarthmore to be doing more to deal with that.”

Levine addressed the crowd next, saying that the Board has “been considering ways to invest in areas that will address climate change.” Levine also referenced the upcoming Board vote on the BEP building, saying the decision was “all about investing in our future.”

After the meeting, students gathered in Kohlberg Coffee Bar. Girgenti spoke again, saying “things are looking pretty good,” which elicited cheers from the crowd. Mountain Justice then asked students to write down the reasons they support divestment on orange squares and attach them to a “DIVEST NOW” poster hanging on the window. Mountain Justice member Christopher Malafronti ‘18 shared his own reasons, and said his experience at a Mountain Justice meeting at Ride the Tide was the reason he decided to attend Swarthmore. Erika Weiskopf ’17 spoke about the need to reach for the future now: “We have a duty to do what we can with what we have,” she said.

After the crowd began writing on orange squares and eating donuts, Mountain Justice member Stephen O’Hanlon ‘17 shared that he thought the action was a success. “The amount of student turnout here emphasizes how much student support there is for fossil fuel divestment at Swarthmore,” he said, calling the petition a “clear mandate” for the Board to ask. O’Hanlon also said Mountain Justice is looking forward to meeting with the Board in the coming weeks, and collaborating with both the Board and Cambridge Associates, the firm who recently agreed to help its clients divest.

Hours after the meeting, Kemp announced that the Board committed $12 million dollars to raise the sustainability level of the BEP building from LEED Silver equivalent standard to  LEED Platinum. LEED Accrediation is decided upon by the U.S. Green Building Council, and buildings earn points for sustainable design elements — from water efficiency to indoor air quality to using sustainable building materials in the construction process. The jump from silver to platinum is equivalent to a jump from 50-59 points to 80+ points.

While students are pleased with the decision, Mountain Justice members agree it is not enough. “Divestment sends a powerful political message to the country and to the world in a way that sustainable buildings cannot,” said O’Hanlon.  In the email announcing the decision, Kemp also shared that the BEP building’s platinum accreditation is not the only action the Board of Managers took to address students’ concerns. He wrote that the Board is asking investment managers how they weight environmental impact against returns on investment.

While Kemp revealed that the Board is interested in better understanding how the investors consider environmental impact in investment decisions, Mountain Justice released a statement that said, “If our Investments Committee begins to evaluate these threats, this can only lead to fossil fuel divestment.”

Swarthmore’s Largest Financial Advisor Can Support Divestment

On Wednesday, November 19th, Mountain Justice members announced a huge victory for Swarthmore Mountain Justice’s campaign. Mountain Justice held a press conference to share the news and issue updated demands of the Swarthmore Board of Managers.

photo guido

Yesterday, Swarthmore’s largest financial advisor, Cambridge Associates, announced that it would actively assist institutional investors in implementing fossil fuel divestment. For the first time, the door to fossil free investment is wide open to Swarthmore and the dozens of other schools whose endowments Cambridge manages. For years the Board has argued that they cannot divest because our existing fund managers do not offer fossil free options. Cambridge’s offer means that a plan for divestment is now just a phone call away.

We call on Swarthmore College, as an institution deeply committed to justice, sustainability, and civic responsibility, to immediately reply to Cambridge’s offer and identify pathways to a fossil-free endowment. Climate change and our fossil fueled energy infrastructure caused nearly 14,000 deaths a day in 2010 alone and the potential damage wrought by unchecked fossil fuel extraction is unthinkable. The Board of Managers cannot refuse this unprecedented opportunity to be a moral leader on climate change by ending our investments in the fossil fuel industry and reinvesting in the just and sustainable future we need.

Following the Cambridge announcement, the recent U.S-China climate deal, and the UN’s latest climate report, fossil fuel investments are in the public eye more than ever. The world’s two biggest carbon polluters have publicly reaffirmed their commitment to limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius – a commitment that can only be fulfilled by leaving 60%-80% of known carbon reserves in the ground and therefore devaluing the fossil fuel industry by 50%, according to the investment bank, HSBC. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels not only increases our endowment’s risk to the carbon bubble’s devaluation, but signals that we, as an institution, believe the fossil fuel industry is a legitimate long-term investment. This is the wrong message being sent at the worst time.

Fortunately, the tide is turning rapidly. 2014 has already been a historic year for the climate movement. Over 400,000 people, including 200 Swatties, came to the People’s Climate March. The next day, the Rockefeller Foundation, built off the wealth of Standard Oil Company, divested and the fossil fuel divestment movement hit a milestone: funds totalling over $50 billion have publicly committed to going fossil-free. The fossil fuel divestment movement began here at Swarthmore just three years ago. Since then it has grown to 500 campaigns around the world. The movement has assembled a groundbreaking coalition of universities, cities, religious institutions, and world leaders including World Bank President Jim Yong-Kim, U.N climate chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, and U.N General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. Just this morning, Norways’s public pension fund announced that it is divesting and reinvesting in sustainable solutions. The fund is valued at $84 billion, making this is the largest fund to divestment victory to date.

The international movement that started on this campus caused the financial community to recognize the serious risk that the carbon bubble poses to long term investments. This ultimately led Cambridge Associates to publicly offer immediate and comprehensive assistance to any institutional investor seeking to transition to a fossil-free portfolio. As our world’s most vulnerable communities face increasingly deadly climate impacts, and our generation looks out onto a potentially catastrophic future, it is imperative that Swarthmore’s Board of Managers make this call.

We, as members of Swarthmore Mountain Justice and on behalf of the international divestment movement, call upon the Board of Managers and the Investments Committee to:

  1. Immediately make the call to Cambridge and ask for assistance in identifying pathways to a fossil-free endowment.
  2. Commit to working with Cambridge on a potential fossil fuel divestment plan at the December Board of Managers meeting.
  3. Work with Swarthmore Mountain Justice and Cambridge Associates in the following months to construct a proposal for fossil fuel divestment, to be brought to the February Board of Managers meeting.
  4. Vote on the proposal at the February Board of Managers meeting.

Climate change is already an unprecedented human rights crisis, and we know that it will be low-income communities and communities of color that will bear the brunt of our inaction. It is past time that Swarthmore align its investments with its values of social responsibility. We look forward to seeing our Board of Managers seize this crucial opportunity to demonstrate Swarthmore’s commitment to a just and sustainable future on this planet.

If you haven’t already this semester, sign our petition to the Board of Managers and tell them to make the call to Cambridge.

From Daily Gazette: Mountain Justice Make NYTimes.com Front Page

By Isabel Knight and Andrew Karas
Originally published December 5, 2012

Swarthmore Mountain Justice (MJ) made the front page of The New York Times’ website as the group’s campaign to to divest Swarthmore’s endowment from fossil fuels continues to gather momentum.

“I definitely think we’re part of a huge movement,” said Ali Roseberry-Polier ‘14, a member of MJ, in a late-night Skype conversation.

“We’re just starting to see the sort of mass action that we know is going to first win divestment campaigns and then force strong action for climate justice,” said MJ member Will Lawrence ‘13, also present in the Skype interview. “This needs to get enormous, so much bigger than where it is now. So I think we’re just at the beginning of it. It is really taking off right now.”

The reporter who wrote the story covers environmental issues for the Times and was put in touch with MJ by the Responsible Endowments Coalition, a non-profit that was co-founded by Morgan Simon ’04.

The article outlines the mission of MJ and the efforts of 350.org, a non-profit led by national environmental advocate Bill McKibben that urges institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

“We hope that that can be the beginning of a process that will lead to divestment for Swarthmore,” Lawrence said. “The administration has expressed to us that they share our concerns about environmental injustice.”

Fueled by the success of countries and colleges that divested from apartheid in South Africa, MJ and other groups are hoping to use the same strategy to make a meaningful change in the way students view their environment.

“I think that the Administration genuinely is concerned about the crisis that we’re facing right now,” Roseberry-Polier said. “I think that it’s hard not to be.”

MJ is well aware, however, that the Administration doesn’t yet share their belief that divestment is the proper means to achieve climate justice.

In the Times article, Treasurer and Vice President for Finance Suzanne Welsh is quoted as saying “To use the endowment in support of [social] missions is not appropriate. It’s not what our donors have given money for.” This response is echoed by numerous colleges across the US, especially those with multi-billion-dollar endowments, according to the article.

MJ is unwavering in its faith that the Swarthmore administration may someday join their side.

“The message that this community as a whole needs to communicate to them is, if they want to do something, divestment is where the movement is right now,” Lawrence said.

In that vein, MJ is staging a what Lawrence calls a “mini-rally” in front of Parrish at 12:30 on Friday, setting up a line of dominoes as a visual representation of the political momentum behind the divestment movement.

Also Friday is The Board of Managers Luncheon. Representatives of MJ will be meeting with members of the Board to begin what Lawrence hopes will be the beginning of a serious conversation about divesting.

Yesterday, Middlebury College announced an exploratory process on the issue of divestment, according to Roseberry-Polier. Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts have already committed to divest, and a Harvard University student government referendum has also supported divestment.

“Bryn Mawr does have a campaign right now, and we’ve been working with them a fair amount,”  Roseberry-Polier said. “Swarthmore’s really in a position to be a leader on this. A few months ago there were six schools doing divestment. Two years ago we were the only school with a divestment campaign. And now there are well over a hundred.”

Delco Times: Swarthmore students protest endowment from fossil fuels

Originally published Friday, December 7, 2012

By KATHLEEN E. CAREY

SWARTHMORE — Swarthmore College students lined the blue steps of Parrish Hall on Friday and held their signs, “Swat Divests,” “Other Schools Divest,” “Bold climate legislation in the United States,” “Climate justice and sustainable communities.”

The three dozen students, most from Swarthmore Mountain Justice, were rallying inside the hall to call on the college’s Board of Managers to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

“It’s clear at this point divestment is not going to go away,” one of the Swarthmore Mountain Justice members, William Lawrence, said as he stood by the steps stacked with cardboard box painted dominoes.

The group chose dominoes to symbolize the ripple effect Swarthmore’s divestment could have on climate change by motivating other schools to do the same, then possibly leading to federal legislation and then international climate action and sustainable communities.

“It’s a long journey to get there but we know we have no chance but to act,” Lawrence said.

Alexa Ross, another Swarthmore Mountain Justice member, explained the significance of the moment.

“For me and for all of us, this is a struggle for narrative,” she said, adding that it was an incredible opportunity to create the stimulus for change that could transform the future. “I hope you join us.”

Maurice Eldridge, Swarthmore College’s vice president for college and community relations, said some board members met with members of Swarthmore Mountain Justice during the rally to share their perspective.

He offered some of it.

“I think the discussion is how we best respond to it, whether divestment is the best thing or other ways,” Eldridge said. “I don’t think the focus on the fossil fuel industry is the wrong one. The question is, ‘How do you affect change?’”

Swarthmore College President Rebecca Chopp penned a letter responding to the students’ actions, explaining that the college stands with them and is on a path to achieve carbon neutrality as a campus by 2035.

She also addressed the request for divestment.

“To the extent that we are invested in the fossil fuel industry, we believe exercising stockholders’ rights is a more effective way to change the industry than selling off stocks to be purchased by the next ready buyer and leaving ourselves without a voice in the company’s decision making,” Chopp wrote.

She said impacting government policy and practice would be more effective than divestment.

“Taxing the industry aggressively, pursuing meaningful policy change and targeting research and development of renewable energy provides a more holistic approach to overcoming the threat of climate change,” she wrote.

Lawrence appreciated the college administration’s willingness to talk with the students but expressed some frustration with the pace.

Having embarked on this issue two years ago and the first meeting with administration seven months ago, he was optimistic that the action to divest may be nearer.

“We’re trying to impress on them the urgency of the situation,” he explained.

Ross likened the effort to the movement that inspired divestment in South African funds during the era of apartheid.

“We’re in the middle of something big right now,” she said.