FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
17 April 2015
Contact: Stephen O’Hanlon, (610) 955-7398, [email protected], Swarthmore Mountain Justice
AS STUDENT SIT-IN ENTERS FIFTH WEEK, 360 SWARTHMORE COLLEGE ALUMNI PLEDGE TO WITHHOLD DONATIONS UNTIL THE BOARD DIVESTS FROM FOSSIL FUELS
SWARTHMORE, PA — Yesterday evening morning, Swarthmore Alumni delivered 360 pledges to withhold donations until the Board commits to fossil fuel divestment, along with 1083 petition signatures and over a hundred letters calling for divestment to the alumni office. Dozens of alumni from across the country also sent letters to Investments Committee Chair Chris Niemczewski and Board Chair Gil Kemp calling for action on divestment at the May Board meeting.
“We urge the Board to reaffirm the college’s highest purposes and ideals, and in the light of the humanitarian disaster of climate change, that surely requires divestment,” said Peter Meyer, a Swarthmore alumnus from the class of 1965 who delivered the letter.
“This will be the first time in 45 years that I have not made my annual donation to the College, so this was not a decision taken lightly,” said Fran Putnam, a Swarthmore alumna from the class of 1969 on her decision not to donate until the Board commits to divestment.
The sit-in is attracting international attention. Swarthmore alumna, and head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres publicly endorsed the sit-in. Dean Baker, a Swarthmore alumnus and co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research also endorsed the campaign Thursday. Over 6,000 people supporters from around the country have called on the the Board to reopen the dialogue on divestment.
This delivery came as Swarthmore Mountain Justice’s sit-in for fossil fuel divestment on the campus that birthed the now global divestment campaign entered its fifth week, making it the longest ever sit-in for fossil fuel divestment. Over 200 have now participated in the sit-in. Since the Swarthmore sit-in began, students around the country have begun sit-ins at Harvard, Tulane, Yale, University of Mary Washington, Bowdoin, UC Berkeley, and CU Boulder.
“This marks a turning point for the climate justice movement because it is the first time students across the country are taking coordinated action for divestment,” said Sara Blazevic, a current senior and sit-in organizer who has helped coordinate the national escalation. “It shows that the movement has found its legs and is more committed and powerful than ever.”
As a result of the sit-in, the Board of Managers announced that they will put fossil fuel divestment on the agenda at the May board meeting. “While this is a major victory for our campaign, we are continuing to sit-in to call for 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,” said Erika Weiskopf, a sophomore and sit-in organizer.
Swarthmore Mountain Justice is one of the largest campaigns in the College’s history: 1,200 faculty and alumni, along with 970 students (61% of the student body) 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.
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.
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.