Official Response to the Smith College Board of Trustees

Dear Deborah Duncan and April Foley,

We would like to thank you for inviting us to present at the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility (ACIR) in February, and for providing us with a response to our ask. However, the members of Divest Smith College are extremely disappointed in the negative stance the Board has taken in regard to fossil fuel divestment.

In your response, you write “the issue of the Smith endowment and climate change has been raised and addressed,” but we feel that this issue is not addressed without adequately exploring divestment both within the structure of Investure and without. Furthermore, the ACIR’s analysis is not on par with those of our peer institutions, nor was it agreed upon by student representatives on the ACIR, who voiced concerns that Mike Costa’s method was not useful in exploring the likely impacts of divestment. Yet the committee went ahead with this model anyway and continues to claim that the ACIR is informed by student voices, when in fact it was not.

As long as Smith College remains invested in fossil fuels, Smith is complicit in the destruction this industry causes in our communities and around the world. It is true that the recommendations passed by the ACIR are a step towards becoming more conscious of our investments and working towards sustainable investment strategies. However, Divest Smith College and over 200 alumnae have made clear to the Board of Trustees (via the ACIR) that our immoral fossil fuel investments are not addressed by these recommendations.

The Board of Trustees is failing in its duty to listen to student, alumni, and faculty voices and concerns. In 2015, the Student Government Association passed a student referendum in support of fossil fuel divestment and, more recently, hundreds of Smith College alumni have signed a petition in support of divestment. We also have a faculty petition in support of divestment with almost 100 signatures. The Smith community deserves to have our voices heard and regarded with respect. Further inaction by the Board shows a disregard for the concerns of the Smith community, as well as a disregard for the very real impact of the fossil fuel industry on climate change worldwide. The presence of avenues for students to be heard is meaningless if the questions we raise and solutions we advocate for are not given the weight they are due.

Divest Smith College has been advocating for divestment for six years, and we have no plans of stopping until Smith makes tangible progress towards full fossil fuel divestment. We requested the reimplementation of the ACIR more than two years ago for the purposes of acting on divestment directly, and that has not happened. This is a difficult process on both sides, and we are asking for the Board’s support and respect for our experience and knowledge. We are intimately familiar with the recommendations the ACIR has put forth and regard their adoption as moderate progress – these recommendations are an exploration that must go hand in hand with divestment to bear weight. A two-year waiting period in which Smith College refuses to discuss divestment is unacceptable as it does not take into account the reality of climate change. We urge the board to act on this issue with an urgency that matches the monumental degree of our current climate crisis.

Sincerely,

Divest Smith College

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