Core to Carleton is caring. For each other, for our education, for our communities and for our planet. We each have our own unique ways of contributing to the collective good. Yet our actions are only as valuable as our institutional impact.
Our college is funded by a roughly 1.3 billion dollar endowment, managed by the Board of Trustees. This money—fed by student tuition, alumni donations and other avenues—is invested to give the college financial stability and maximize profits. Currently, these funds are split into public and private holdings. The public holdings which make up an estimated 20 percent of endowment are currently clean of fossil fuel companies. Yet the private, and far-larger portion, is much more opaque. The previous administration refused to provide a conclusive answer as to whether these holdings are directly invested in fossil fuels, military contractors or private prisons. Thus, we are left to learn for ourselves where the money of the institution, that we represent and pay for, lies. In examining tax release data, while it’s hard to land on an exact number, it is clear that a significant portion of our money is invested in fossil fuels.
We are a coalition of students and alumni calling on Carleton to divest its endowment from fossil fuels, military contractors and privately-owned prisons. Any of these investments are a direct assault on our future and are misaligned with Carleton’s institutional values. In recent months, colleges and universities, including Harvard, Macalester, the University of Minnesota, St. Olaf and many more, have divested their funds. We ask that Carleton follow in the footsteps of its peer institutions to combat environmental injustices and live up to its claimed legacy of caring for students’ futures.
Asking for such a major financial decision may sound concerning. Historically, colleges and universities have bet on fossil fuel stocks due to their success. Yet with the growing momentum of divestment campaigns for both universities and major pension funds, and the inherently-unsustainable nature of oil extraction, it is clear this success will be short-lived. With a green future becoming increasingly imminent, we agree that holding stocks in what will eventually become outdated energy forms may not make long-term financial sense. As oil stocks are currently up, this marks a clear call to divest now, rather than wait for divestment and alternative energy sources to drive the market down. Thus, for Carleton to remain invested in fossil fuels is a potentially irresponsible financial decision, in addition to being hypocritical and detrimental to our right to a livable future.
Divestment is not only a clear moral obligation of Carleton, it is also one of the most effective forms of fighting the climate crisis. The immense power of oil corporations, which has driven us to our current dire environmental state, is only as deep as their bank accounts. We, as students, are forced to use protest and direct action to fight for our rights, which in our corrupt system often feels like running up against a brick wall. Our Board of Trustees is in a unique position to remove the bricks from this wall’s very foundation, while simultaneously making a fiscally-responsible decision to sell out at the top of the market.
In advocating for Carleton’s divestment, we are excited to welcome President Allison Byerly to Carleton, and we are eager to establish a collaborative path forward under her administration. Carleton has proven itself a strong environmental leader in many respects—divesting is a critical next step.
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