The Claremont Colleges divestment campaign began in November 2012 with Bill McKibben’s “Do The Math” speaking tour, when 75 Claremont students attended his talk at UCLA. Bill McKibben spoke of a national, even global movement to take on the fossil fuel industry in a way that students could directly participate: fossil fuel divestment. Inspired by his words, we returned to Claremont ready to kick off our campaign.
Back on campus we began our campaign with a candlelight march and delivered the official “Requests to Divest” to the five presidents of the five Claremont Colleges: Pomona, Pitzer, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Harvey Mudd. Our actions gained student, faculty, and alumni support, and soon we had built a five-college team.
To start off the Spring 2013 semester we met with Pitzer’s President Trombley and Treasurer Lee, during which President Trombley stated, “I think your campaign is a worthy one; I think that you have very admirable principles. You are doing what I think is consistent with the values of Pitzer College.”
Two weeks later we met with the Pitzer Trustee Investment Committee and submitted a report on the financial impacts of divestment. We held a discussion panel with student leader and divestment organizer Jess Grady-Benson, who spoke with a number of faculty members about the details of fossil fuel divestment. We also passed a resolution in favor of divestment through Pitzer’s Student Senate.
In April, we submitted a second report to Pitzer’s Trustee Investment Committee outlining the moral obligation to act for the sake of social, environmental, and intergenerational justice. The Committee voted to pass on the vote to the entire Board of Trustees, who will meet to discuss the topic in Fall 2013.
In October 2013, the Board of Trustees created a Climate Change Working Group (CCWG) to examine and develop a general climate action plan for Pitzer College which may include but is not limited to divestment. The CCWG includes 3 board members, 3 students, 2 faculty, and 2 staff.
For the February 2014 Board of Trustees meeting, students gathered outside the meeting for a Valentine’s Day Action. The Divest Claremont team created an artistic representation of a pipeline, and dressed in black to create a human oil spill. Pitzer professors Paul Faulstich, Dan Segal, Harvey Mudd professor Paul Steinberg, and Indigenous Student’s Alliance member Desiree Laurie Covarrubias addressed the crowd about the importance of divestment and student activism, and the urgency of climate change.
Students at Pomona College have made two presentations to the Committee on Social Responsibility (an advisory committee to the board of trustees) and a presentation to Presidents Advisory Committee on Sustainability.
On April 9th, 2013 we passed a student referendum with 78% of voters in favor of divestment and 93% of voters in favor of creating a Green Revolving Fund. In response to this display of student support at Pomona, both the President’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability and the Committee on Social Responsibility voted to divest the college’s fossil fuel holdings of its separately managed funds within five years. The CSR’s statement declared:
“The Committee considers climate change to be a crucial issue of grave and urgent moral import and recognizes that divestment in fossil fuel companies is a means to express our concern about the negative implications of climate change both for our planet and for this college. The Committee unanimously endorses the idea that divestment is consistent with the values of the Pomona College community, and that divestment is worth exploring as both a possible expression of those values and as a means to support and help energize the political will to address climate change issues.”
To end the semester, the Committee requested that Pomona’s financial advisers prepare a report on the impact of divestment on the endowment. In addition, the Committee requested a full analysis of the possibilities for reducing the college’s investment exposure to fossil fuel companies in its commingled funds.
On September 24, 2013, President Oxtoby announced that Pomona’s Investment Board decided against fossil fuel divestment in any form. The divestment team responded to President Oxtoby’s decision against divestment. Click here to view the open response.
In April 2013, Scripps held a divestment panel where Lizzie Medford (Scripps ’16) outlined the moral imperatives of divestment. Avery Pheil (’17) and Tricia Light (’17) also helped to host a Do The Math movie screening and discussion about climate change and the importance of divestment.
Harvey Mudd College and Claremont McKenna College:
We are hopeful for future progress at all five colleges, but so far have had less momentum at Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna. Please contact us if you are interested in getting involved!