Mountain Justice has been working on a fossil fuel divestment campaign for a year now. We’ve had numerous conversations with various students and student groups in an effort to assess the views of our peers regarding the issues we are confronting, and to get feedback on our methods. Last month, we decided it was time to gauge the opinions of the student body as a whole to get a better sense of the campus’s attitudes towards this issue. In order to do this, our group wrote a petition that any student could sign asking President Chopp to support divestment.
Going into the petition drive, we weren’t sure how to feel or what to expect. Was the support we had gotten from individuals representative of the student body? Would people feel comfortable
attaching their name to a statement written by a “green group”?
Collecting signatures on the first shift at the top of Sharples immediately removed our qualms. People were not just willing to sign; they expressed an excitement to support our cause in whatever way they could. Some people literally grabbed the pen from my hand; many people I’d never met before told me how great they think MJ’s campaign is. Over the course of just one hour, I was reminded again and again of why we do the work that we are doing: students at this school believe that Swarthmore needs to be held to the standards it sets out for itself, and in this case, that means DIVESTMENT.
We collected hundreds of signatures in a matter of days. We don’t have a final count yet, but we know that in less than two weeks, about half of the student body signed on. If we were uncertain of how widespread our support was at the beginning, there is no question now. The student body is concerned about Swarthmore’s investment policies and the school’s ongoing support for destructive, dangerous, and oppressive fossil fuel companies, and we want that policy to change. We don’t have 700 people at our weekly meetings, but we have their support as we go forward in this struggle. Now more than ever, it is clear that we need to bring President Chopp to our side as well in the fight against the extractive industries and towards a clean investment future.