Divest Dartmouth holds Keystone pipeline protest

by Anthony Robles | 4/14/17 2:20am

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Divest Dartmouth members walked their "Keystone pipeline" across the Green in protest of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Source: Courtesy of Catherine Rocchi

Instead of their typical location inside trash bags outside of fraternities and sororities, empty Keystone Light cans were instead arranged in the shape of a pipeline on the front lawn of Parkhurst Hall on Thursday afternoon to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Divest Dartmouth, which organized the protest, called upon College President Phil Hanlon and the Board of Trustees to divest endowment holdings from the 200 “dirtiest” fossil fuel companies, according to Divest Dartmouth member Jay Raju ’18.

While Divest Dartmouth members built the pipeline, they also circulated a petition for onlookers to express their support for the cause. Afterward, several members of Divest Dartmouth gave short speeches detailing the purpose of the rally before departing and walking across the Green with the pipeline. Raju said that Dartmouth’s involvement with the fossil fuel companies suggests their complicity.

“We believe that when an institution like Dartmouth invests in a company as part of its endowment, it is making a statement that it agrees with that company, it agrees with its value statement and the things that it’s doing,” Raju said.

Raju drew a parallel between divestment from fossil fuels and the College’s divestment in 1989 from companies operating in South Africa during apartheid and the similar student movement that elicited the change.

“Back when apartheid was happening, the College successfully divested its holdings in companies that were complicit in apartheid, companies that profited,” Raju said. “That was as a result of a student movement very similar to the one we have right now.”

Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was originally shut down by former President Barack Obama in 2015, a decision that followed months of protests in North Dakota. Shortly after his inauguration earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed legislation that would enable construction of the controversial project to continue. Divest Dartmouth member Catherine Rocchi ’19 noted that Trump is reinstating the Dakota Access pipeline, the Keystone pipeline and a “variety of other environmental injustices” that Obama did not support.

According to Rocchi, Divest Dartmouth not only aims to raise awareness for the Keystone pipeline, but also wants to bring attention to fossil fuel divestment in general.

Since its inception in 2012, Divest Dartmouth has had an active presence on campus. Last April, the organization hosted the Big Green Rally in support of divestment from fossil fuels, which was endorsed by over 110 co-sponsors, the most in Dartmouth’s history, and was attended by nearly 500 individuals. Yesterday’s demonstration was inspired by a similar event that took place four years ago, when members of the organization constructed a pipeline out of discarded Keystone cans, Divest Dartmouth member Ches Gundrum ’17 said.

Divest Dartmouth member Greg Szypko ’20 said that the protest may not necessarily lead to direct action by administrators, but the intention was to bring attention to the issue.

“Our goal is to get people more involved and actively thinking about environmental justice,” Szypko said. “Obviously this event, in and of itself, will not convince the Board of Trustees or President Hanlon, but hopefully it will sort of put the fire in the bellies of a lot of Dartmouth students to make more push to make that happen.”

Additionally, Gundrum said that several members of Divest Dartmouth met on record with Hanlon and two trustees, board chair Bill Helman ’80 and investment chair Rick Kimball ’78, to discuss divestment during the fall of 2016. Gundrum added that this meeting was inconsequential.

“Nothing really came of it,” he said. “Since then, we’ve just been going back and forth via email and nothing really seems to be getting done, so this is why we do things like this. This was a relatively easy action to put forward and we definitely will be doing things in the future.”

While Anna Matusewicz ’20 was unaware of the demonstration, she supported the organization’s actions, citing her agreement with their goal to divest from fossil fuel companies.

“If there was another way that I had heard of it, I probably would’ve stopped by,” Matusewicz said.