Not too long ago, the students – and more than a few of the faculty – at Swarthmore College decided that the time had come to take a stand against Big Oil, carbon or… something. Along those lines, they demanded that their school divest their endowment fund from any investments in fossil fuels. In order to make their point, they organized a sit in which lasted for the better part of a month. In the end, they declared victory when the faculty voted to support the students in this decision.
A 32-day student sit-in at Swarthmore College ended Monday after faculty voted to support the protesters’ demands to divest endowment money out of fossil fuels.
“We are ending after a commitment by the Board of Managers to engage us in the weeks leading up to their decision on divestment on May 1 and 2,” said sophomore Stephen O’Hanlon, an organizer with Swarthmore Mountain Justice, the student group that has pushed for divestment for the last five years. An alumni petition with 1,100 signatures bolstered their demands.
Of course, if you read the details of the agreement carefully, you’ll note that the people who actually make these decisions – the Board of Managers – didn’t actually to agree to anything other than to “engage with them” as they considered the question. Apparently the “engagement’ worked out about as well as the average Hollywood marriage, because when the decision was finally handed down, the Board decided they’d rather remain profitable. And now the students are sad. (Insert violin music here.)
Despite a mandate from the Swarthmore Community, today the Board of Managers chose to stand on the wrong side of history and announced it would continue to invest in fossil fuels.
With over two hundred other colleges, foundations, religious institutions, and pension funds including the University of Dayton and Sweden’s $37 billion AP2 Pension Fund, choosing to divest, the message is clear: the fossil fuel industry’s basic business model is incompatible with a stable climate and has no place in a sustainable future. The Swarthmore community has spoken: over 2,000 Swarthmore faculty, students, and alumni, including UN climate chief Christiana Figueres ‘79, have called for fossil fuel divestment. But today, our Board of Managers chose to reconfirm its commitment to an industry that has no place in a sustainable future.
For their part, the Board told the students that the investment committee was focused on the best long term financial results, and not other social objectives. There’s a shocker, eh? Imagine the nerve of these people, charged with keeping the place funded but deciding not to dump a proven investment strategy.
But maybe they should have just caved in to the students’ demands long ago. That’s the ticket. They should only invest in things they jointly believe in. The right move would clearly have been to take the entire endowment and invest it in Solyndra, Evergreen Solar and Fisker Automotive. No nasty, unsustainable carbon monsters there! And then, when your endowment is completely drained and the school is effectively bankrupted, the kids can all move like a swarm of locusts to some other college and start all over again.
Of course, that wouldn’t actually happen. Someone from the government would come along and bail them out.