8 days ago, 44 students, faculty, and alumni began a sit-in at the College’s Finance and Investments office to call on Investments Committee Chair Chris Niemczewski and Board Chair Gil Kemp to reopen dialogue and collaborate with Mountain Justice to move forward on divestment. Since then over 100 students, faculty, and alumni have joined the sit-in.
As one of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, and one with a strong tradition of civic responsibility and leadership for the common good, we the world looks to us for leadership on the pressing social issues of our time. As the college where the divestment movement began (and escalation), Swarthmore’s fossil fuel investments are in the international spotlight. By investing in the fossil fuel industry, Swarthmore is saying that the fossil fuel industry’s business plan to burn over five times as much carbon as is reasonably safe to burn is compatible with our institutional values of social responsibility, truth, and leadership for the common good. As the world prepares to draft the most critical climate agreement ever, this is the wrong message being sent at the worst time.
Yet the Swarthmore community recognizes that it doesn’t have to be this way. A majority of the student body, nearly half the faculty and over 1100 alumni, including UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres, have called on Swarthmore align our investments with our values. Since our sit-in began 5,438 people from around the country have signed onto a letter of solidarity with our campaign and asking Swarthmore to take vital leadership on climate.
We are pleased to know that divestment is on the agenda at the May Board meeting, however that is no guarantee that this will result in the action the Swarthmore community deserves. The decision will be made behind closed doors by thirty-nine board members. The several thousand Swarthmore community members who have voiced support for divestment will not be at the table during the May Board meeting. We are continuing our sit-in to call on the Board to reopen dialogue with us because we need to ensure that divestment will be seriously considered in May, and that the Board is committed to seizing the historic opportunity that we have before us.
We are here to ask that President Hungerford urge Mr. Niemczewski and Mr. Kemp to work with the Mountain Justice to discuss commitments for divestment ahead of the May Board meeting in order to ensure that the May meeting is productive and produces results in line with the urgency of this crisis.