Alumni Weekend Petition Times

Thank you for all the support you give! Here is a list of the best times to collect signatures from fellow alumni in support of divestment.

Thursday

Petition @ Check-in

12:00-9:00 pm

Parrish Hall, Shane Lounge

Friday

Petition @ Check-in

12:00-4:30pm

Parrish Hall, Shane Lounge

Petition and give out squares @ Welcome Reception

4:30-6:00pm

Mertz Field

 

Petition and give out squares @ All-Alumni Dinner

6:00-8:00pm

Sharples Tent

Saturday

Petition and give out squares @ All-Alumni Breakfast

7:30-9:45am

Sharples Dining Hall–Feel free to bring your food upstairs and sit at the table in the front!

Petition and give out squares @ All-Alumni Lunch

12:00-1:30pm

Sharples Dining Hall–Feel free to bring your food upstairs and sit at the table in the front!

Panel on Sustainability, featuring MJ leader Stephen O’Hanlon!

2:00-3:30pm

Kohlberg Hall, Scheuer Room

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BREAKING: 30 begin sit-in to demand Pres. Smith & Board stop hiding behind 1991 Ban on using endowment for social purpose

BREAKING: This morning, 30 students and faculty began a sit-in to demand the administration and Board stop hiding behind their 1991 Ban on taking any social concerns into account when managing the endowment. Instead of following the leadership of students, faculty, and alumni, President Smith and the Board have used this ban as an excuse to shy away from taking the moral leadership we so desperately need on climate justice. We are here in President Smith’s office in particular to call on her to support the Ban’s repeal.

Can you join us in Parrish 2nd East Wing to demand answers? 

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At this time, public safety has not attempted to cite or remove students from the office. The College agreed to recognize our right to peacefully protest. This is a victory for students and faculty’s right to protest and would not have happened without the massive community pressure.

These times are not normal; yet our College’s administration continues to behave as if they are. The fossil fuel industry is partnering with the Trump administration to promote an all-out assault on our communities and our futures, and our administration continues to say that we must keep our investments neutral. This contradicts everything Swarthmore claims to stand for.

Here’s what’s really going on. Their decision to divest from apartheid was described as a ‘scarring’ process for some Board members. In the end, they divested only when the two African American Board members at the time stood up and threatened to resign if the Board didn’t divest. They ultimately divested at that meeting, taking a powerful moral stand. But afterwards, to avoid this kind of ‘trying’ decision, they issued an all out ban on using the endowment for any and all social purposes.

At Friday’s forum, this was on full display. President Smith and VP of Finance Greg Brown dodged our questions and were unable to give any financial or political reasons for not accepting the referendum for partial divestment — all they could do was hide behind the 1991 Ban.

Throughout this debate, the administration and Board have taken the easy path. Rather than seriously engage, they have sought to divide our community — to pit financial aid against climate action, campus sustainability against systemic political change. Rather than discuss the merits of partial divestment, they chose to cite students for peaceful protest. Yet we now know that their reluctance to take the action we need comes not from a judgement of our campaign on its merits, but out of desire to avoid a repeat of the Apartheid decision.
Historically, Swarthmore has time and time again been a powerful voice for justice. This was not brought about by the administration. From the 1969 SASS Admissions office sit-in to the 11-year long apartheid divestment campaign of the 1980s, change came about because generations of students and faculty rose up. We are here sitting-in today once again calling on the administration to lead with us because at this moment in history we cannot afford nothing less than bold moral leadership.

BREAKING: 30 begin sit-in to demand Pres. Smith & Board stop hiding behind 1991 Ban on using endowment for social purpose

BREAKING: This morning, 30 students and faculty began a sit-in to demand the administration and Board stop hiding behind their 1991 Ban on taking any social concerns into account when managing the endowment. Instead of following the leadership of students, faculty, and alumni, President Smith and the Board have used this ban as an excuse to shy away from taking the moral leadership we so desperately need on climate justice. We are here in President Smith’s office in particular to call on her to support the Ban’s repeal.

Can you join us in Parrish 2nd East Wing to demand answers? 

unnamed

At this time, public safety has not attempted to cite or remove students from the office. Provost Stephenson agreed to recognize our right to peacefully protest. This is a victory for students and faculty’s right to protest and would not have happened without the massive community pressure.

These times are not normal; yet our College’s administration continues to behave as if they are. The fossil fuel industry is partnering with the Trump administration to promote an all-out assault on our communities and our futures, and our administration continues to say that we must keep our investments neutral. This contradicts everything Swarthmore claims to stand for.

Here’s what’s really going on. Their decision to divest from apartheid was described as a ‘scarring’ process for some Board members. In the end, they divested only when the two African American Board members at the time stood up and threatened to resign if the Board didn’t divest. They ultimately divested at that meeting, taking a powerful moral stand. But afterwards, to avoid this kind of ‘trying’ decision, they issued an all out ban on using the endowment for any and all social purposes.

At Friday’s forum, this was on full display. President Smith and VP of Finance Greg Brown dodged our questions and were unable to give any financial or political reasons for not accepting the referendum for partial divestment — all they could do was hide behind the 1991 Ban.

Throughout this debate, the administration and Board have taken the easy path. Rather than seriously engage, they have sought to divide our community — to pit financial aid against climate action, campus sustainability against systemic political change. Rather than discuss the merits of partial divestment, they chose to cite students for peaceful protest. Yet we now know that their reluctance to take the action we need comes not from a judgement of our campaign on its merits, but out of desire to avoid a repeat of the Apartheid decision.
Historically, Swarthmore has time and time again been a powerful voice for justice. This was not brought about by the administration. From the 1969 SASS Admissions office sit-in to the 11-year long apartheid divestment campaign of the 1980s, change came about because generations of students and faculty rose up. We are here sitting-in today once again calling on the administration to lead with us because at this moment in history we cannot afford nothing less than bold moral leadership.

Administration threatens students with probation and fines for Feb sit-in

At around 8:00pm last Friday, four members of Mountain Justice received emails from the Dean’s Office threatening fines and academic probation for their participation in the February 24th sit-in at the Finance and Investments Office in Parrish Hall. It is not yet clear why these four particular students were selected.

The sit-in called on the Board to engage in dialogue on the student divestment referendum, which students passed by a landslide, and was a partial success, with the Board placing divestment on the agenda for the first time in over a year.

We find it shocking and disturbing that the administration would rather threaten students with fines and academic probation than meet and discuss the issue. The Board’s continuing refusal to engage on this issue only further shows that they know their blanket rejection of any divestment is indefensible. To refuse to engage simply because divestment would use the endowment for a social purpose goes against everything Swarthmore stands for.

These students took action as part a long tradition on this campus of peaceful acts of conscience. They were calling on the Board of Managers to act in line with our institution’s values of social responsibility and leadership for the common good. The fossil fuel industry threatens millions of lives and our collective future — with the Trump administration actively supporting this industry, it is unconscionable that Swarthmore continue to support and invest in fossil fuels.

The students and faculty at the sit-in made every effort to be courteous and thoughtful to Mr. Amstutz and Public Safety, even assisting Mr. Amstutz with his office tasks. We urge President Smith and Dean Miller to affirm our community’s right to peaceful protest, and ask you to add your name to this petition to do the same:
https://goo.gl/forms/elZ9rdXz6HDWUGtJ3

Exciting Update: Progress and Next Steps on the Sit-in

EXCITING UPDATE: We have gotten some, but certainly not all of what we wanted. President Smith and Board Member David Singleton stopped by and agreed that divestment would be a topic of conversation at the Board meetings tonight and tomorrow.

This comes just a day after they said the conversation was totally closed. It shows that when we take bold action, we get results.

We will keep stepping up the pressure throughout this weekend’s meeting and until the Board commits to engage seriously with the referendum proposal on its merits instead of flat out rejecting it because it would be taking social concerns into consideration when investing.

This attitude goes against everything that Swarthmore stands for and would have prevented us from divesting from apartheid, a decision we are proud our institution made. We want Swarthmore to take similar moral leadership for climate justice.

Join us today at 3pm outside the Scheurer Room for an emergency rally to keep up the pressure and demand action on this important issue.

https://www.facebook.com/events/713592855466816/

BREAKING: Students stage sit-in to demand the Board seriously consider the student referendum on divestment

Just minutes ago, on the first day of the Swarthmore Board of Managers quarterly meeting, 20 Swarthmore students began a sit-in at the office of Chief Investment Officer Mark Amstutz to demand that he and the Board stop using their blanket rejection of any proposal for fossil fuel divestment. They rejected a student referendum that passed by a landslide not for political or financial reasons, but solely because they believe we should never take any social concerns into consideration when investing our endowment.

We are asking that all Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff who think the Board should fairly consider the divestment referendum to join us in Mark Amstutz’s office on the second floor of Parrish (Parrish 229 West).

We are here to ask Mark Amstutz, Greg Brown, Val Smith, and the Board: do you truly stand behind this policy? While we understand that some restraint around using the endowment for social purposes is important, these same standards would have prevented us from divesting from the apartheid regime in South Africa, a decision that we hope the entire Swarthmore community is glad the Board made.

The fossil fuel industry poisons marginalized communities and threatens the future of every student, just so they can extract the last bit of profit from their reserves. We want to be able to look back years from now and know that we as students and as an institution took powerful action to stand for climate justice as the fossil fuel industry and Trump administration joined together to prioritize profit over science, communities, and our future.

We want to look back and know that Swarthmore added its voice to an unprecedented coalition of institutions that have divested from fossil fuels, ranging from leading universities like Stanford and Yale, to the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund and the city of Washington D.C., and even including the Rockefeller Family Fund, which was built off the family’s oil fortunes. Already, funds totaling over $5 trillion have been divested from fossil fuels.

Moreover, the Board is also are ignoring a strengthening financial case for fossil fuel divestment. For instance, Yale University partially divested last spring, citing financial risk as the primary reason for divesting. A growing chorus of financial and political leaders, including former Shell Chairman, Mark Moody-Stuart, billionaire investor Tom Steyer, former Vice President Al Gore, and UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, have advocated for divestment as a sound financial decision. Even investment bank HSBC, in a report to investors, advised divestment, warning that investors who stay in fossil fuels “may one day be seen to be late movers, on ‘the wrong side of history.’” Even the Board’s own investment expert has endorsed divestment for financial reasons.

This is not the first time that students and faculty have gotten a “no” from the Board. The anti-apartheid divestment campaign spanned eleven long years: eleven years of being ignored, sidestepped, and rejected by the Board. Despite the Board rejecting divestment four times, students and faculty persisted, taking increasingly escalated action, and in 1989 the Board committed to a plan to divest from apartheid in South Africa.
Due to student and faculty efforts, the Board ultimately stood on the right side of history. Now, as the Trump administration partners with the fossil fuel industry to push disastrous climate policies that threaten millions of people and our collective futures, we need our Board to take a stand for justice once again. And we are confident that if we stand together as a community, we will win.

Swarthmore Should Follow Yale’s Lead, Divest to Protect Our Endowment From Fossil Fuels

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On April 12th, Yale’s Chief Investment Officer David Swensen announced the school’s decision to partially divest its endowment from fossil fuels. Swensen cited not ethical reasons, but financial prudence, as the top motivator behind the decision. Yale’s divestment came after Swensen asked their investment managers to consider the potential risks that investments in coal and oil pose to their endowment. One of the firm’s founders said they agreed climate change and carbon pricing were “unknowable risks and fossil fuel producers with significant carbon footprints were declining businesses, a profile the firm preferred to avoid.” Yale’s divestment is only the latest example of college and university endowments divesting in exactly the way Swarthmore’s Board of Managers claims is impossible.

Yale’s decision to withdraw $10 million of their remaining investments in the fossil fuel industry came after months of conversation with Yale’s external investment managers about the risks of continuing to invest in coal and oil. Swensen noted that “a few managers held positions we felt were inconsistent with our principles. Thermal coal miners and oil sands producers are two of the obvious industries that would suffer if regulation imposed the social cost of the carbon emissions on producers.” Two of Yale’s external managers maintained investments in industries incompatible with Yale’s principles, but Swensen prompted both managers to sell their holdings in oil and coal.

Yale saw a 11.5 percent return on their endowment in fiscal year 2015. Yale’s endowment is highly regarded as one of the best performing college endowments in the country. That Yale’s Chief Investment Officer has ruled divesting from fossil fuels financially prudent should not be taken lightly by Swarthmore, and makes clear that there is a strong financial case for divestment on financial grounds as well as moral political ones.

Swensen said that Yale’s endowment currently maintains only minor exposure to the oil and coal industries. But as the Yale case exemplifies, divestment is a process, not a leap that is taken overnight. Swarthmore could easily start taking small steps like asking our managers to move investments away from risky fossil fuels and identifying managers with funds in line with our financial and moral principles. This could begin the process of eliminating the financial risk posed by fossil fuel investments and taking the crucial step of revoking our support from an industry that is incompatible with a sustainable future.

This month, a slew of divestment victories means Swarthmore stands increasingly alone in refusing the call to divest. This past Monday, the University of Ottawa also joined the ranks of institutions committing to divest from fossil fuels. On April 12th and 13th, a total of 43 students were arrested for sitting in for divestment at University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Harvard, prompting UMass President Marty Meehan to state, “I want to make UMass the first public university in the country to divest our direct holdings from all fossil fuel companies.” On April 15th, one year after students were arrested for taking nonviolent direct action for divestment, the University of Mary Washington passed a motion to maintain a portfolio that is 98% divested from the largest 200 fossil fuel companies. Students have since begun sit-ins and taken direct action at Columbia, Vassar, NYU, Northern Arizona University, University of Montana, and James Madison University.

In order to successfully avert runaway warming and to meet the goals laid out at the Paris Climate talks, more than 84% of current fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground. This means there is a “carbon bubble,” and that there will be a severe devaluation of fossil fuel stocks as we make the necessary transition away from fossil fuels. We are already witnessing this effect. Peabody Coal, the world’s largest private sector coal company, filed for bankruptcy early this month citing an “unprecedented industry downturn.” If carbon assets are not stranded in the very near future, then the future holds approximately 4.5 degrees of warming or more, according to the IPCC. Not only will this mean a devastating loss of human life, but it will also almost certainly entail a collapse of the global economy—and Swarthmore’s endowment along with it.

While members our Board of Managers questions the effectiveness of divestment as a tactic, the fossil fuel industry takes it quite seriously. Prior to filing for bankruptcy, Peabody Coal listed the fossil fuel divestment movement as a significant risk to their profitability in their annual Form 10-K report, warning that fossil fuel divestment “may adversely affect the demand for and price of securities issued by us, and impact our access to the capital and financial markets.”

Yet somehow, despite a community mandate from the majority of the student body, a historic faculty resolution in favor of divestment passed last May, as well as a letter signed by Noam Chomsky and six other honorary degree recipients. Swarthmore’s Board has continued to stand on the wrong side of history by remaining invested in fossil fuels. This may be less surprising in light of the connections Swarthmore Board members have with the fossil fuel industry. Rhonda Cohen is a director of Glenmede, a financial manager founded on the Sun Oil Company fortune. Cohen, along with Harold Kalkstein and Sam Hayes have past and present connections to over $3 billion in investments in fossil fuel companies.

The urgency of climate change means we must do everything in our power to move away from the carbon economy that is poisoning our planet and harming frontlines communities. Not only do we have a moral obligation to divest, but as Yale’s actions would suggest, a fiduciary one as well. Sparked on our campus five years ago, the movement to divest from fossil fuels has since catalyzed the divestment of funds totaling over $3.4 trillion by more than 500 institutions worldwide. We call on the Board of Managers to follow the example of these institutions and begin to divest our endowment of fossil fuels. Swarthmore must revoke its support of a destructive and outdated industry and invest in a just and sustainable future.

Works Referenced

http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2016/04/12/yale-begins-divestment-from-fossil-fuels/

http://leave-it-in-the-ground.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Post-Paris-Carbon-Budget-LINGO.pdf