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Meeting with Board Member: Divest Carleton Ramps Up Pressure

On Thursday, February 10, Divest Carleton met with President Alison Byerly and Board of Trustees member Justen Wender. Wender, a managing partner at Stella Point Capital, has been on the Board for 18 years and is now also the chair of the Investment Committee. According to Maya Stovall ’23, the group was excited for this opportunity as they “have been trying to set up a meeting with the Board for a long time.”

While no decisions were made during this single meeting, the group left feeling encouraged. “I thought it was a good first step into a bigger conversation about what Carleton’s responsibility is to its students, its community and the world,” Carsten Finholt ’23 said. 

Divest Carleton estimates that over three percent of Carleton’s $1.1 billion endowment is invested in the fossil fuel industry, equating to upwards of $30 million. The student-led group has been active since 2013 and has, in recent years, motivated hundreds of students and alumni to sign a petition against these investments. This term, they wrote a 25-page proposal which formally asked the Board of Trustees to divest from corporations profiting from the extraction of fossil fuels, the destruction of land, the prison industry and the U.S. military. 

The group handed Byerly and Wender both the petition and the proposal during the meeting. “We had been working on the proposal for a few weeks and put many hours into preparing it in the days before the meeting,” said Eliza Lox ’25. “We are really hoping that our hard work pays off and the board is willing to work with us.”

In August 2021, Macalester College announced that it was beginning the process of divesting from all publicly traded oil and gas assets, a decision that followed a sizablestudent-led movement. Macalester is not alone in this decision. Dozens of colleges and universities around the country have started the process in the last few years alone, including St. Olaf and the University of Minnesota. 

As more peer institutions announce divestment every month, Carleton faces substantial pressure to divest. However, divestment isn’t just a yes or no question. “Now that there is peer pressure from institutions, the question isn’t if Carleton will divest, the question is how much and when. If we sit back and let it happen, it’ll be a limited type of divestment,” Aashutosha Lele ’23 said. 

To push Carleton to fully and quickly divest, Stovall asserts that students need to persist in their demands. “They need both: the pressure from peer institutions and from students.”

The meeting with Wender, with an estimated net worth of over $160 million, was just the start of a bigger campaign which Divest Carleton plans to roll out in coming months. Lele said, “Now that we’ve articulated our position to the Board and gotten a better understanding of where they are at, we are going to push for more student engagement to show that this is an essential issue for the whole student body.”

Eva Hadjiyanis is also a member of Divest Carleton.

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