Hopefully everyone has heard by now that Middlebury’s Board of Trustees decided NOT to divest the College’s endowment from fossil fuel and weapons industries. Just in case you missed it (BTW it was noted in this NYT article about college divestment movements a few days ago), Prez Liebowitz outlined three questions that prevented them from doing it:
- What practical effect would divestment likely have?
- What impact would divestment likely have on future returns of the endowment?
- Would divesting from companies in the fossil-fuel sector open the door to future requests for the College to divest from other areas of the economy that some might find objectionable?
Although it’s a little late, we still wanted to highlight some responses from people involved in the divestment movement. First of all, here is Bill McKibben in the Addison Independent last week:
“It would have been very nice if Middlebury had done the right thing right off the bat, but it took them several years when the question was apartheid,” said Bill McKibben, Shuman Distinguished Scholar at the college and founder of the global environmental action group 350.org, in a Thursday email to the Independent. “So, this opens up a good chance of ongoing education with students, faculty, (and) alumni. I admire Ron Liebowitz enormously, and I look forward to the time when his trustees enable him to make a statement more consistent with the core values of the college.”
Also in that story is a response from 350.org, the organization McKibben founded with Midd students:
“We take issue with (Liebowitz’s) basic idea — that divestment is mostly a symbolic argument, associated with too many unanswered questions and high risk,” they wrote. “It’s in fact a practical tool to reduce the political power of the wealthiest industry on the planet. But even if you accept his terms, we believe Middlebury can do more. Though the available data shows endowments would have made far more money in the last decade had they divested from fossil fuels, great colleges are about more than money.”
Finally, here is a letter members of the student organization Divest Middlebury, who have led and continue to lead the divestment movement on our campus:
Dear President Liebowitz, the College administration, and the Board of Trustees,
Thank you for your transparency in your statement regarding divestment and the Board’s internal processes and preliminary proposals. We appreciate the time you have dedicated and your willingness to collaborate with us as we work to divest our endowment of fossil fuels and arms manufacturing holdings. While an increased commitment to ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) principles is a positive step, it is not enough.
We recognize that divestment will not be an easy process. However, Middlebury has repeatedly taken on the threat posed by climate change and is the alma mater to many devoted environmental and social justice advocates. We believe we must invest in our values and divest from that which threatens the world in which we are learning to engage.
President Liebowitz claimed that a number of critical questions regarding the College’s decision on divestment remain unanswered; we seek to provide answers that will guide the discussion on divestment in the coming months. (Read the rest after the jump) Continue reading