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The Carletonian

Alumni spearhead divestment effort

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To pressure the College to divest from fossil fuel companies, Divest Carleton, a network of alumni, are collecting signatures and working with students and faculty to gather support for divestment.

Last week, Brett Smith ’94, a member of Divest Carleton’s leadership team, presented to the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC), a group that makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees on the College’s investments.

In a handout, Smith stated that approximately $4.73 million, or 0.6 percent, of Carleton’s endowment is directly held in the top 200 fossil fuel companies. Divestment from Carleton’s direct holdings would entail selling nine stocks.

However, 80 percent of the endowment is in commingled funds, and the specifics of these holdings are not public. Divestment from these would be more difficult.

Through his presentation, Smith wanted to show that “divestment of fossil fuel stocks would not be complicated or likely to affect the endowment.”

The alumni have no plans to go to the Board of Trustees at the next meeting, which is in February. Instead, they plan to support CRIC and the Climate Justice Coalition, a student group for divestment, in their efforts to further divestment. Kate Olney, a parent who runs the Divest Carleton Facebook page, said she thinks that alumni, along with students and faculty, make their official ask for divestment before the end of the school year.

For the September Board of Trustees meeting, Divest Carleton sent the trustees a letter, asking them to freeze the College’s new investments in the top 200 fossi fuel companies and to divest within five years from direct ownership and comingled funds that include these 200 companies. Fourteen people signed the letter. They never received a response.

A major effort of Divest Carleton is to gather signatures in support of divestment. Smith and others in the group have tabled at reunions, gath- ering hundreds of signatures.

“Alumni are an important constituency of the College, and there are lots of talented and committed people in this group,” Smith said. “The College needs to pay attention to its alums. This is one of the things that Carleton prides itself on.”

Likewise, Olney said, “Alumni are the folks with the money. They’ve left school and are working, and in a position to donate to their alma mater.”

Carolyn Ham ’83, a member of the Divest Carleton leadership team sees the petitions as important in generating awareness and support.

“It generates discussion about the issue of the morality of investing in fossil fuels on campus,” she said.

“It proves people who are frustrated with the lack of action by our government with a concrete step that they can push for real change. It also signals to the College that there are large numbers of people who are concerned with the College’s continued investment in an industry that appears determined to extract fossil fuels despite the certain suffering it will cause to the planet.”

Ham sees divestment as a powerful political tool. In her first year at Carleton, she participated in protests to get Carleton to divest from South Africa due to Apartheid. She recognizes like divesting from South Africa, divesting from fossil fuels will be a long—but necessary—process. “Climate change is the defining issue of our time,” she said. “We must act quickly and decisively to cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

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