RESPONSIBLE ENDOWMENTS COALITION www.endowmentethics.org


Students Flood Smith College President’s Office with Singing Valentine Calling for Divestment

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February 13, 2015

Northampton, MA -  30 singing students flooded into Smith College President Kathleen McCartney’s office today to deliver a Valentine’s Day card signed by over 100 members of the student body to demand the college divest from fossil fuels.

Divest Smith College was joined by the a capella group The Notables to deliver the singing Valentine and card. “Please divest our endowment fund! Put big oil on the run! Wind and solar will get us through! We’re breaking up with fossil fuels!” they sang as they entered College Hall.

 “President McCartney has not come out in favor of or against divesting our endowment from fossil fuels. We’re asking her to “be our Valentine” by accepting our card and publicly supporting divestment on Valentine’s Day,” said Callie Sieh ‘18J, a member of Divest Smith College.

 “Smith College’s investments must reflect the values of the College. With 82.4% of the student body and over 85% of the student Senate in support of divestment from fossil fuels, the current investment strategy is clearly in opposition to the position of our student body,” said Eleanor Adachi ‘17, an outreach leader for the group.

 Divest Smith College advocates for investment standards that will establish Smith College as a model for an economically viable, socially proactive, and environmentally committed institution. The campaign calls on Smith College to (1) freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and (2) commit now to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

 

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College Alumni: Time to Make Fossil Fuels History

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Today, Responsible Endowments Coalition is proud to be part of the first-ever Global Divestment Day of Action.  After less than four years, campaigns around the world are now engaging in simultaneous creative action to pressure their colleges, churches, city and state pension funds, and institutions to move their money out of the fossil fuel industry.  This day represents the growing call to dismantle the political and economic stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry. 

Students have been at the forefront of the fossil fuel divestment since its inception and remain a powerful force steering the movement, as evidenced by the growth of Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network and the spread of campaigns to over 400 campuses around the world. Today, students at Middlebury College are staging a tug-of-war between students and fossil fuel industry executives. In New Jersey, Rutgers University students are staging a die-in to demand fossil fuel divestment. All across the United States and across the globe, student groups are mobilizing in response to the global call for fossil fuel divestment.

However, students are not the only ones with a stake in university fossil fuel divestment. Alumni have an integral part to play and are directly implicated in the unethical endowment practices of their alma maters. Colleges and universities prize the size of their endowments, and subsequently value alumni donor pools who contribute to their growth. Every time an alumna or alumnus makes a donation to the general capital fund of their alma mater, that money does not necessarily go to scholarships for needy students or to the budgets of struggling liberal arts departments. That money is often funneled into investments, some of which generate returns from the harmful extraction of fossil fuels or other business practices that put profit over people and planet. 

To alumni who have watched on--unsure of your role or your agency in this time of crisis--we assure you that you are needed and that you are capable of galvanizing change. There are a variety of ways that alumni can engage effectively to increase pressure on campaign targets.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Get to know student organizers at your alma mater.  They will be able to tell you most about what’s going on with the campaign on-campus and how you can best plug in. These can range from call-in days to alumni meetings with the board.

  2. Leverage your $$. Talk to student organizers about creating an alumni pledge to withhold donations to your alma mater until they commit to divest. Ask if they are using an escrow account as a tactic. If not, let them know about REC’s Responsible Endowments Fund.

  3. Make your voice heard. Publish an op-ed calling for divestment in local or national papers, write letters to the editor responding to oppositional articles about divestment, or call your university's president.  Alums can also serve as a megaphone to highlight student stories, so be sure to collaborate with student organizers. 
  4. Show up and take action.  If you can, participate in on-campus actions.  Take direction from student leaders on what role you should play.  Depending on the context, it may be powerful for alumni to participate in direct action and risk arrest. 

  5. Organize other alumni.  Utilize your network of alumni contacts and listservs to activate more people in support of divestment.  Phone bank for rallies and protests, speak at your reunions on the necessity of divestment, and organize fellow alumni to take action!

Students are gearing up for a spring semester of bold, strategic action and we encourage all alumni to get involved. Alumni support can go a long way in amplifying and legitimating student demands. We will need everyone on board to bring positive social change to our campuses and communities! 

If you are an alum who is supportive of student escalation and ready to take action this spring, sign your name here! If you want further support on how to engage with the divestment campaign at your alma mater or how to take strategic action as an alum, contact the Alumni Team at the Responsible Endowments Coalition! Email alumni@endowmentethics.org.

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The New School Divests!

This past Friday, President David Van Zandt published a message officially stating The New School’s decision to divest its endowment portfolio from fossil fuel companies, following a year and a half of student petitions, student senate resolutions, panels, and detailed divestment recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility.

This decision was a long time coming, but reflects the enormous commitment of students, faculty, staff, and other community members to push The New School to match its rhetoric about addressing climate change with a corresponding commitment to responsible investment. As PhD economics student Brandt Weathers commented, our university's actions are catching up to its progressive history.”

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College of the Marshall Islands Divests!

First College in the Pacific Islands Divests from Fossil Fuels

 By Charlie Wood, 350.org

 

MAJURO, 15th December 2014 -- As another set of uninspiring UN climate negotiations draws to a close in Lima, the fir st college in the Pacific Islands, the College of the Marshall Islands (CMI), has just voted unanimously to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands comprises over 1,000 small, low-lying islands that are home to almost 70,000 people. With rising tides and floods already submerging their homelands, the Marshallese people have a great deal to teach the world about what will happen if we do not take serious action on climate change.

“We need all of our friends and our colleagues in the Pacific Region and around the world to take note, spread the word and become leaders in this movement to divest from fossil fuels, said CMI President Carl Hacker.

“It is critical that our voices and our actions are taken into account as we move forward in discussions concerning climate change and the formulation of policies that will preserve our islands, our histories, our cultures and our ways of life. 

“The Pacific Region has to be a leading voice in raising this awareness and do what ever we can in our own home islands to walk the talk of divestment of fossil fuels and climate change. 

Responding to the news, 350.org Australia’s CEO Blair Palese said: “As world governments dither over serious action to reduce emissions, those living on the frontline of climate impacts are taking the leadership that the world needs. Despite overwhelming evidence of the damage caused by the fossil fuel industry and despite sustained pressure from student campaigners, many first world universities still invest in fossil fuels.

“Yet here is a university in one of the most climate change exposed countries in the world, who has contributed the least to the problem, showing real climate leadership by divesting from the industry driving the climate crisis. We commend CMI and encourage other universities to follow in their footsteps,” commented Palese.

CMI’s decision makes it one of the first colleges in the Pacific Region to divest, following New Zealand's Victoria University, which committed to divest from fossil fuels in early November, and the Australian National University, which divested from two fossil companies in early October.

 

 Media Enquiries:

Charlie Wood: charlie@350.org.au +61 427 485 233

Carl Hacker: chacker@cmi.edu 692-625-3394

Ian Trupin: ian@endowmentethics.org 615-584-5658

 

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Mainland colleges have a lot to learn from the Marshall Islands!

The Republic of the Marshall Islands is comprised of over 1,000 small, low-lying islands that are home to almost 70,000 people. With rising tides already eroding their homeland, the Marshallese people have a lot to tell the world about what will happen if we do not take serious steps to address climate change and its root causes.

For over a month and a half, REC has been in contact with Carl Hacker, the President of the College of the Marshall Islands, regarding campus efforts to divest the College's endowment from fossil fuels.

If they succeed, they could be one of the first colleges in the Pacific Region to divest, following New Zealand's Victoria University, which committed to divesting fossil fuels earlier this month, and Australian National University, which divested stock in seven extraction companies in October. They will also be sending a very powerful message to other colleges and universities worldwide, highlighting the moral imperative to take action.

In Mr. Hacker's own words:

We need all of our friends and our colleagues in the Pacific Region and around the world to take note, spread the word and become leaders in this movement to divest from fossil fuels.  It is critical that our voices and our actions are taken into account as we move forward in discussions concerning climate change and the formulation of policies that will preserve our islands, our histories, our cultures and our ways of life.  The Pacific Region has to be a leading voice in raising this awareness and do whatever we can in our own home islands to walk the talk of divestment of fossil fuels and climate change. 

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Two Years Later: Remembering Sandy

During the week of October 28, 2012, the New York and New Jersey region was devastated by Hurricane Sandy, a storm that displaced people from their homes, crippled entire communities, and took the lives of 117 people in the United States. Two years later, the REC staff looks back and reflects on the storm and its lasting legacy on our work and our lives. 


Biola 

Hurricane Sandy was a scary time for me because my family out in Coney Island lost power for over a week after the storm. Sandy was a wake up call for New Yorkers that we definitely are not exempt from the impact of climate change. On the second anniversary of the storm I think it’s important that we dwell on what happened but also how we can be holistically rebuilding this city in a way that doesn’t drive out people of low income and working class backgrounds.

 

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(image: John Huntington/controlgeek.net)

  

Ian 

During Hurricane Sandy I was living in Providence, RI. Though the storm was not as strong that far up the coast as it was in New York and New Jersey, the coastline of Rhode Island was nevertheless severely battered. I remember walking through some of the strongest rain I've ever seen. Later, visiting family and friends in northern New Jersey I learned more first hand about the devastation. It struck me how the storm brought out both the best and worst in terms of our society's response to climate change: denial, victim-blaming, and government unaccountability, but also unity, cooperation, and resilience among survivors.

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Responsible Endowments Coalition Stands in Solidarity with Ferguson and All People Resisting Systemic Racial Violence

Credit: occupyoakland.org

Image Credit: occupyoakland.org

Today on Indigenous People’s Day, known in the mainstream as Columbus Day, we at the Responsible Endowments Coalition stand in solidarity with the people on the ground who are resisting police violence and the militarized policing of black and brown communities across the country--from St. Louis and Ferguson to Karnes and Beaver Creek. Just as Christopher Columbus seized native land and enslaved indigenous peoples hundreds of years ago, the same Western systems of domination continue to oppress and terrorize large swaths of the US population. As a student-driven organization guided by a vision of a world in which people are valued over profit, we are deeply saddened and outraged at the continued targeting of black and brown people by a militarized police state. We further realize and denounce private corporate interests that are heavily invested in the incarceration of poor people of color, from the excessive arming of domestic police forces to the maintenance of private prison facilities and detention centers.

In August, unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was brutally murdered by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Since Brown’s murder, many others have fallen victim to police violence, including teenager Vonderitt Myers Jr. who was shot in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis four days ago. Eyewitnesses claim that Myers was holding a sandwich and not a gun as police contend. The deaths of Brown and Myers cannot be understood in a vacuum. The criminalization of black and brown communities are directly profiting the institutions charged with serving the interests of those very same communities. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, released a report revealing that fines and court fees made up the second largest source of revenue in Ferguson and that 86 percent of vehicle stops “involved a black motorist, although blacks make up just 67 percent of the population.” Additionally, more and more cities and states are privatizing prisons to cut upfront costs but have in turn contributed to the dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States. More than 60 percent of the prison population is black or Latino even though those groups only make up 30 percent of the general population.

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The Private Prison Bed Quota and Immigrant Justice: An interview with Donald Anthonyson

REC Summer Interns sat down with Donald Anthonyson, a veteran organizer with Families for Freedom. We interviewed him about the federal prison bed quota and how non-citizens are being targeted under its decree. Read on for an in-depth conversation about the prison industrial complex, immigrant justice, and the predators and prey within our current crisis of mass incarceration. 

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Q&A with Eric Sturm

More student profiles! In this bite-sized Q&A with Eric Sturm, we find out what he's been up to at NYU and what his particular path looks like in the fight against mass incarceration. 

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Student Group Profile: Students Against Peabody

Student Group Profile: Wash U Students Against Peabody

This post kicks off a new move by REC to profile student groups around the country putting in great organizing work for social and environmental justice. Below is the bullet-points version-- to reach the longform version just follow the Read More link at the bottom. Also, if you know of any groups that you want to see featured on here let us know with an email to info@endowmentethics.org

Their issues:

  • Greg Boyce, Chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy sits on their Washington University Board of Trustees

  • The Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, a research entity with a deceitful name and sponsored by three major coal companies has existed on their campus since 2008

  • Peabody Energy, a fossil fuel company with a heinous track record of human rights abuses and environmental degradations has a close relationship with their institution of higher education

What they’ve been up to this past May 2014:

What they’re generally all about:

  • removing big­moneyed interests from college campuses

  • opposing and working to reverse the gross injustices committed by Peabody Energy

  • using social media and student privilege to elevate voices from frontliner communities

  • maintaining their long­standing involvement with residents from Black Mesa, and the groups Take Back St. Louis, and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment

  • A student group that puts collective liberation into action

 


 

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