Divest Dartmouth rally is most co-sponsored event

by Alexa Green | 4/28/16 6:30pm

Backed by over 110 co-sponsors — the most of any single event in Dartmouth’s history — the Big Green Rally will be held tomorrow on Gold Coast Lawn in support of divestment from fossil fuels.

The Dartmouth Controller’s Office 2015 Endowment report states that the total market value of the College’s endowment was $4.66 billion as of June 30, 2015. Five to 15 percent of the endowment is allocated to natural resource investment. Formed in 2012, Divest Dartmouth has been trying to change that policy by rallying for complete divestment divesting from fossil fuels. The rally is a continuation of the group’s efforts.

Co-sponsors consist of Greek letter organizations and societies, student groups, Upper Valley community groups and allied sustainability campaigns.

Leehi Yona ’16, one of the founders of Divest Dartmouth, said that the goal of the rally is showing the large amount of support both in the community and among students and alumni for climate action and divestment.

Divest Dartmouth member Catherine Rocchi ’19 said that she did not want the College supporting fossil fuels due to their harmful environmental impact. More specifically, divestment refers to the removal of investment assets such as stocks, bonds and funds.

“It is wrong to wreck the climate as these fossil fuel companies are and it’s wrong for us to profit from that wreckage,” Rocchi said, adding that there are also financial incentives for divestment. “These fossil fuel companies own more reserves than we can actually burn and stay under the 2-degree Celsius limit set by the United Nations, which means that they are quite over-valued and have a lot of strandedassets.”

By divesting, Rocchi said, the College would publicly shame such companies and implicitly denounce their activities.

Maanav Jalan ’19, a member of Divest Dartmouth, said that climate change is more than just a scientific phenomenon.

“I think climate change tends to be portrayed as a science or research issue. It’s very clinical and data driven,” he said. “For me, climate change is very much a social justice issue and I think Divest Dartmouth gives space for these voices to be heard.”

Divest Dartmouth outreach coordinator Ches Gundrum ’17 said that students are interested in the campaign for a variety of reasons. To Gundrum, unlike supporting social and racial justice movements, backing movements like Divest is easy because “it’s kind of hard to say you don’t care about the planet.”

Gundrum added that many students are frustrated with the current campus climate because there has not been much active dialogue between students and the administration.

“It’s very obvious our efforts have been stalled [by the administration] and a lot of other groups can feel that too,” she said. “This is a way for them to support us and say they understand what it is like.”

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email statement that College President Phil Hanlon regularly meets with members of Divest Dartmouth and agrees that energy needs are one of the present day’s greatest challenges.

Hanlon applauds students for shining a light on this issue and believes Dartmouth is positioned to intensify its scholarly efforts to better understand the political, social and policy implications of global warming and climate change, Lawrence wrote.

Yona said that she was surprised by the lack of communication between the group and the administration.

“If you had told me that I would graduate from Dartmouth not even having had a single, public meeting with the Board of Trustees nor with President Hanlon, I would never have believed that to be possible,” she said.

Past meetings between Divest Dartmouth members and the administration were off the record, as they occurred during Hanlon’s office hours. The organization’s members have gone to over 30 combined hours of Hanlon’s office hours.

In March 2014, Divest Dartmouth asked the Board of Trustees for a meeting regarding fossil fuel divestment. Hanlon subsequently responded, telling the group that in order to hold a meeting with the Board of Trustees, the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility had to write a report on fossil fuel divestment. Yona said that two reports have been written, but no copies have been made public.

Many peer institutions have divested some of their funds, but have refused to remove all investments from fossil fuels. At Stanford, the universiy’s trustees stated that, based on a review of its investment responsibility criteria and input from its Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, the university would not completely divest. In 2014, Stanford announced it would take the steps to divest its $18.7 billion endowment of investment stock in coal-mining companies. The Yale Times reported that Yale University would partially divest from coal producers.

Yona said that a total of $3.4 trillion has been divested from fossil fuels as a result of university and church actions.

“So, it’s a huge amount. And Dartmouth would not be the largest endowment divesting if they decided to,” Yona said. “I think at this point, the administration is using a lot of stalling tactics.”

Divest Dartmouth’s membership has tripled each year since 2014. The group currently has over 2,000 signatures on their “Go Fossil Free!” petition.

In April of 2015, Alumni for Dartmouth Divestment diverted its annual College fund donations to the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, where they will be held until Dartmouth divests.

The Big Green Rally will start tomorrow at 1 p.m. on Gold Coast Lawn.

Correction appended (April 29, 2016):

In the College's five to 15 percent investment in natural resources,only a portion of the endowment is invested in fossil fuel companies. Divest Dartmouth recognizes thatDartmouth has a very marginal amount of money indirectholdings of fossil fuel companies. Of these direct holdings, the College only has a small portion ofdirect stocks in fossil fuelcompanies that the group is encouraging divestment from.In an email, Yona wrote that"it's actually more like a fraction of a percent, at most."