FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 10, 2015
Earlham Alumni Will Withhold Donations Until Fossil Fuel Divestment
College alumni magazine used as a tool to show support for on-campus justice activism.
RICHMOND, IN – In the Summer 2015 issue of Earlham College’s alumni magazine, The Earlhamite, 15 alumni published pledges to halt donations to the college while it’s endowment is still invested in fossil fuels. These pledges are part of a nationwide movement of university alumni calling for their alma maters to join the growing number of institutions with “fossil free” stock portfolios.
“It is from a place of love and a commitment to a better world that my husband and I have decided we will no longer donate money to Earlham until the college divests its holdings from destructive fossil fuels,” wrote Abby Fenton, class of 1996.
Since 2011, students across the country have been pressuring their colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. At Earlham, a student group called the Responsible Energy Investment Campaign (REInvestment) has been negotiating with college administration over a proposal for divestment for almost four years. This is the first time Earlham has seen a coordinated alumni action in support of the campaign.
Alumni view the withholding of donations as a way to amplify their message to college administrators. Kumar Jensen, class of 2012, wrote: “As I weigh the different ways to continue to support Earlham and its community members, I have decided to withhold donations to the college. I believe that it is the most effective way as an alumnus to be heard.”
Most of the pledges in the Earlhamite were written by young alums who, like Jensen, were students at Earlham when the REInvestment campaign began. However, a wide range of class years was represented.
“I’ve become a supporter of the movement to divest from the big fossil fuel extraction companies,” wrote Jeanne Warren, class of 1958. “More and more people see the urgency of changing to renewable sources of energy, leaving fossil fuels in the ground.”
REInvestment activists argue that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels is a critical social justice issue. While climate change will certainly threaten students’ futures, the most severe impacts of the fossil fuel industry are felt by already-vulnerable communities with fewer resources to defend themselves against harmful pollution, extreme weather events, and other adverse effects.
This is a point particularly relevant to Earlham, a Quaker college that prides itself on its guiding principles and values of peace and justice. In the Earlhamite, several alumni mentioned this contradiction between the values Earlham espouses and the investments it holds.
Natalie Reitz, class of 2014, wrote that she is “confused and disappointed that Earlham chooses to invest in the violence of the fossil fuel industry”.
Jensen wrote that Earlham’s decision to continue investing in fossil fuel extraction is “contrary to the values I learned at Earlham and unacceptable from a human rights and social justice perspective.”
This outpouring of alumni support comes on the heels of the student senate passing a resolution for divestment in April, which was reflective of the student body’s strong support for the REInvestment campaign’s proposal.
The push to divest from fossil fuels at Earlham and other universities has also garnered support from prominent political voices. “The universities are key to all of this,” stated Van Jones, former White House adviser, at an address to the Earlham campus in 2013. “Every responsible campus should divest its money from poison-producing, pollution-based companies that don’t deserve your money.”
At Earlham, yearly tuition only covers 59% of the actual costs of educating a student, while the rest must be covered by donations. Alumni withholding donations as an act of protest could produce significant pressure in encouraging the college to change its policies.
The Responsible Energy Investment Campaign is a campaign of students and alumni at Earlham College to move the college’s endowment funds out of fossil fuel extraction companies and reinvest those funds responsibly. We are holding our universities to a high but achievable standard, one that invests in a clean energy future for the benefit of students and citizens the world over. Learn more at: www.earlhamreinvestment.wordpress.com and www.facebook.com/EarlhamREInvestment.
Divestment Student Network alumni organizing pledge: link
Boston Globe article about prominent alumni at other schools withholding donations: link
Information about Tufts alums withholding donations: link
Fossil Free Divestment Fund, a coordinated effort by alums to divert donations until their schools divestment: link
Basic information about the fossil fuel divestment movement: link