Today, the Barnard College Board of Trustees approved a plan to divest from coal, tar sands, and other fossil fuels companies that “deny climate science or otherwise seek to thwart efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change,” as written in the college’s media advisory. Barnard is the first college to target specific fossil fuel companies based on their climate actions, which is particularly relevant in today’s political climate.
This decision is a victory for academic freedom and scientific integrity in higher education and is the culmination of over three years of student organizing. In their press release, Divest Barnard acknowledges that this win would not have been possible without broad support from the student body and the work of the Presidential Task Force to Examine Divestment from Fossil Fuels.
“It is incredible to have such overwhelming support for divestment from administration and faculty,” said Divest Barnard sophomore organizer Sam Doss. “We hope that their demonstrated commitment to working with students will raise the bar for other administrations being asked to take on the challenge of fossil fuel divestment. We also hope that this moment will inspire ongoing campaigns.”
Barnard’s decision came just two days after Divest Smith College held a vigil for victims of climate change and the fossil fuel industry. After the vigil, Divest Smith organizers met with the Smith College Board of Trustees to demand a public recommendation on fossil fuel divestment by April 1 from its subcommittee, the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR). The ACIR has been meeting for nearly a year and a half and has not committed to any timeline for making a recommendation.
Perhaps this is moment is more inspiring for the students at Smith College than at any other institution. Athena Sofides, a Divest Smith organizer, said, “We are incredibly proud of and inspired by our Seven Sisters sibling and fellow Investure client.”
Currently, the endowments of both Smith College and Barnard College are managed by Investure LLC, which pools their clients’ money together instead of tailoring their portfolios. Barnard College has $18 million and Smith College has over $100 million invested in fossil fuels. Robert Goldberg, Barnard’s chief operating officer, spoke with Bloomberg News, and said, “Climate change is right in front of us — institutions like ours have to act in some way.”