Swarthmore Faculty Letter to the Board of Managers

Swarthmore’s largest financial advisor, Cambridge Associates, recently announced that it would actively assist institutional investors to implement fossil fuel divestment. The door to fossil free investment is open to Swarthmore and the dozens of other schools whose endowments Cambridge manages. We call on Swarthmore College, as an institution deeply committed to justice, sustainability, and civic responsibility, to immediately reply to Cambridge’s offer and identify pathways to a fossil-free endowment.

As the Board of Managers has acknowledged, climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Climate change and our fossil fueled energy infrastructure cause millions of deaths every year and the potential damage wrought by unchecked fossil fuel extraction is unthinkable. We believe that Swarthmore must take leadership on this incredibly urgent, global problem. In order to diligently do so, we must consider fossil fuel divestment, particularly following the announcement by Cambridge Associates.

Following the Cambridge Associates announcement, the recent U.S-China climate deal, and the UN’s latest climate report, fossil fuel investments are in the public eye more than ever. If the world is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius - a commitment that can only be fulfilled by leaving 60%-80% of known carbon reserves in the ground -- the fossil fuel industry will face a potential devaluation of up to 60%, according to the investment bank, HSBC. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels not only increases our endowment’s risk to the carbon bubble’s devaluation, but signals that we, as an institution, believe the fossil fuel industry is a legitimate long-term investment. This is the wrong message being sent at the worst time.

Fortunately, the tide is turning rapidly. 2014 has already been a historic year for the climate movement. Over 400,000 people, including over 200 Swarthmore students and faculty, joined in the People’s Climate March. The next day, the Rockefeller Foundation, built off the wealth of Standard Oil Company, divested. The fossil fuel divestment movement began here at Swarthmore just three years ago. Since then it has grown to 500 campaigns around the world. The movement has assembled a groundbreaking coalition of universities, cities, religious institutions, and world leaders including World Bank President Jim Yong-Kim, U.N. Climate Chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, and U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon. The movement has begun to move large pools of money. Sweden’s AP2 and Norway's public pension fund, totalling over $100 billion, divested.

In his recent letter to the college community, Board of Managers Chair Giles Kemp reiterated arguments made in May 2013 that divestment would slow the growth of our endowment’s by $10 to $15 million per year. This figure was based off the assumption that the College would need to move out of commingled funds and into indexed funds. While commingled funds screened against fossil fuels existed in May 2013, they have become much more widely available due to a rapid growth of institutional demand for fossil free investment. Now that Cambridge Associates has offered to assist Swarthmore in finding those individual managers offering fossil free investment opportunities, the Board’s claims are outdated.

Our endowment is one of our most powerful levers for social change. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, we, as a community, must seriously engage with divestment.


We, the undersigned 101 faculty, call on Swarthmore's Board of Managers to make a public commitment to fossil fuel divestment.

Peter Collings, Physics and Astronomy
Sibelan Forrester, Modern Languages and Literatures
David Cohen, Physics and Astronomy
Peter Schmidt, English Literature
Barry Schwartz, Psychology
Tessa Wegener, Modern Languages and Literatures
Stella Christie, Psychology
Jodie Baird, Psychology
Bakirathi Mani, English Literature
Micheline Rice-Maximin, Modern Languages and Literatures
Deb Bergstrand, Mathematics and Statistics
Craig Williamson, English Literature
Carl Grossman, Physics and Astronomy
Sangina Patnaik, English
Benjamin Cherel, Modern Languages and Literatures
Allen Schneider, Psychology
Nathalie Anderson, English Literature
Jean-Vincent Blanchard, Modern Languages and Literatures
Christopher Fraga, Sociology and Anthropology
Giovanna Di Chiro, Environmental Studies
Lee Smithey, Peace and Conflict Studies / Sociology and Anthropology
Mark Wallace, Religion
Sarah Willie-LeBreton, Sociology and Anthropology
Cheryl Grood, Mathematics and Statistics
Yvonne Chireau, Religion
Christy Schuetze, Sociology and Anthropology
Rachel Epstein, Mathematics and Statistics
Betsy Bolton, English
Milton Machuca-Galvez, Latin American Studies
Michele Reimer, Psychology
Peter Baumann, Philosophy
Cynthia Halpern, Political Science
Richard Eldridge, Philosophy
Eric Song, English Literature
Nick Kaplinsky, Biology
Vincent Formica, Biology
Alex Baugh, Biology
Eric Jensen, Physics and Astronomy
Luciano Martinez, Spanish
Amanda Bayer, Economics
Nanci Buiza, Spanish
Robert Weinberg, History
María Luisa Guardiola, Modern Languages and Literatures
Ganapathy Narayanaraj, Environmental Studies
Jose-Luis Machado, Biology
Brad Davidson, Biology
Thompson Bradley, Emeritus, Modern Language and Literatures
Alexandra Gueydan-Turek, French
Bruce Dorsey, History
Amy Graves, Physics and Astronomy
Jodi Schottenfeld-Roames, Biology
Sara Hiebert Burch, Biology
Elizabeth Vallen, Biology
Syd Carpenter, Art
Maya Nadkarni, Sociology and Anthropology
Shervin Malekzadeh, Political Science
Alan Berkowitz, Chinese
Kelly McConville, Mathematics and Statistics
Nathan Sanders, Linguistics
Donna Jo Napoli, Linguistics
Ken Sharpe, Political Science
Daniel Grodner, Psychology
Logan Grider, Art
Farid Azfar, History
Joseph Gregorio, Music & Dance
Elaine Allard, Educational Studies
Nora Johnson, English
Edwin Mayorga, Educational Studies
Farha Ghannam, Sociology and Anthropology
Catherine Norris, Psychology
Tamsin Lorraine, Philosophy
Hugh Lacey, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Andrew Hauze, Music & Dance
Diego Armus, History
Jill Gladstein, Writing Program
Gwynn Kessler, Religion
Jamie Thomas, Linguistics
Lisa Smulyan, Educational Studies
Marjorie Murphy, History
Steven Hopkins, Religion
Thomas Whitman, Music and Dance
Helene Shapiro, Emerita, Mathematics and Statistics
Steven Piker, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology
Steve Viscelli, Sociology and Anthropology
Ellen Ross, Religion
Nina Johnson, Sociology and Anthropology
Jennifer Bradley, Educational Studies
Joy Charlton, Sociology and Anthropology
Scott Gilbert, Biology
Rachel Buurma, English Literature
Adrian Gras-Velazquez, Modern Languages and Literatures
Gregory Frost, English Literature
Ben Berger, Political Science
Braulio Muñoz, Sociology
Lynne Schofield, Mathematics and Statistics
Barbara Milewski, Music and Dance
[name withheld]
Sunka Simon, Modern Languages and Literatures / Film and Media Studies
BuYun Chen, History
Tia Newhall, Computer Science
Jocelyne Noveral, Biology

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