Pledge to Escalate this April


Last Spring, 975 students, 96 faculty members and 950 alumni joined Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres and Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon in calling on Swarthmore to divest from fossil fuels. Just this past month, six noted honorary degree recipients, including Noam Chomsky, Arlie Hochschild, Lorene Cary and John Braxton, added their names to the chorus calling on Swarthmore to divest.

Divestment is an urgent and necessary step in delegitimizing the fossil fuel industry and combatting catastrophic climate change. Yet despite a widespread community mandate and the endorsement of international leaders, Swarthmore’s Board chose not to divest last spring. Gil Kemp claimed that the Board was concerned that divesting would harm the college’s endowment, yet prominent financial institutions such as investments bank HSBC have warned that continued investment in fossil fuels actually poses a financial risk to the endowment. Just last month, oil giant ExxonMobil reported its worst quarterly profits in over a decade, and crude oil prices have dropped 70% since 2014. If we honor the agreement set at the Paris Climate Talks of keeping warming below a rise of 2 degrees Celsius, the value of fossil fuel stocks will plummet.

Since divestment would not harm the endowment, why does the Board continue to invest in an industry that kills millions of people every year and is actively making our planet uninhabitable? A recent investigation into the personal finances of Board members revealed that three prominent members are connected to companies with a total of 3.6 billion invested in the fossil fuel industry. These conflicts of interest clearly compromise these Board members and their ability to make a good faith decision on divestment. Last month, we demanded that these three Board members, Rhonda Cohen, Samuel Hayes III and Harold Kalkstein, recuse themselves from future discussions on divestment to ensure transparency. The Board has failed to respond.

The staggering human toll that climate change wreaks on frontlines communities around the globe makes this a moral crisis of the highest order. We cannot sit idly by while our institution fails to take meaningful action to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry and prevent the worst consequences of climate change. Just as the fossil fuel industry has blocked meaningful progress on combating climate change, these three board members’ ties to the industry block our college from being a global leader.

That’s why we’re asking students, alumni and faculty members to pledge to take escalated action with us this spring. We cannot let the personal financial interests of Board members continue to block meaningful action on the most important global issue of our generation. If you pledge to take nonviolent direct action this April, add your name to this form.


Noam Chomsky, Arlie Hochschild, John Braxton, Lotte Bailyn, Lorene Cary and Barbara Hall Partee Call on Swarthmore’s Board of Managers to Divest


TO: Board of Managers of Swarthmore College

We are writing to you as proud recipients of honorary degrees from Swarthmore College. Whether it was divesting from Apartheid, refusing to bow to McCarthyism, developing leaders in the civil rights and peace movements, or admitting women from its founding, Swarthmore has been a powerful voice for justice at critical moments in history.  Right now, we are at one of those points.

Scientists say that we must substantially reduce global carbon emissions within the next several years in order to avoid runaway climate change with devastating effects. While the Paris accords represent a significant step towards the goal of reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the absence of firm commitments by the parties means that we still have a long way to go if we are to prevent the rise in global temperature from reaching 2 degrees Celsius. To keep the increase to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, which the Paris accord set as a desired goal, will be even more difficult.

Climate change is without doubt one of the most important moral, economic, and political issues of our time.  We call upon you to exercise intellectual and moral leadership by implementing a plan to divest from fossil fuels over the next few years. Hundreds of other institutions including Oxford University, Stanford University, the city of Seattle, multiple Nordic national pension funds, and even the Rockefeller Fund—which was built off the profits of Standard Oil Company—have divested funds totaling $1 trillion.  If they can take that stand, surely Swarthmore can also.

None of us can wait for someone else to end the addiction to fossil fuels that is causing the climate chaos that is just beginning.  Ending Apartheid required the force of many different streams in the movement.  But Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu have stated that one key stream was the delegitimizing of Apartheid that resulted from the divestment campaign.  Swarthmore played a significant role in that campaign.  It is time for Swarthmore to stand up and do the right thing once again.


Noam Chomsky, John Braxton and Arlie Hochschild

As of February 19t 2016, honorary degree recipients Lorene Cary, Lotte Bailyn and Barbara Hall Partee have signed onto the letter.

Response to Investment Committee Announcement



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

“A Divestment Christmas Carol”

This weekend, the Swarthmore Board of Managers (known as “Trustees” at any other school) held their Winter meeting on campus. We put on a show outside their meeting to emphasize the need for Swarthmore to stop its support of the destructive, deadly fossil fuel industry!

Through its investment managers, Swarthmore is invested in a number of awful companies, including ExxonMobil, Northern Oil & Gas, and many more. These companies show no regard for human life in their relentless pursuit of profit around the globe. Communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction have suffer devastating health impacts as a result of these companies, and Swarthmore’s direct support of them. Concerned citizens in these frontline communities have been organizing to defend themselves for decades-it’s high time that Swarthmore live up to its mantras of social justice and support these efforts, rather than the companies killing people, and the planet!

Letter from the “Committee on Investor Profitability”

Most students aren’t aware that Swarthmore’s endowment is invested in deadly fossil fuels, so we came up with a creative way to let them know. Every student received a letter from the Swarthmore “Committee on Investor Profitability” in their campus mailbox. The next day, we published an op-ed in several on-campus publications, including the Daily Gazette.