Smith Faculty Release Petition to Divest Endowment from Fossil Fuels

This week, Smith College faculty members have started a petition that calls on Smith to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Throughout the four-year history of the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Smith College, faculty have stood with the movement and acted as leaders, allies, and resources.

Increasing consensus among the faculty that Smith urgently needs to divest its endowment has manifested in this petition, which calls “respectfully and urgently on Smith College (1) to freeze immediately all new investments in coal, oil and natural gas industries and (2) to commit to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.”

This call to action comes at a key moment in history, with international leaders gathered at the U.N. climate summit in Paris to make commitments to reduce emissions and confront both the causes and impacts of climate change. If Smith is truly committed to preparing women to be global leaders, then it “must now acknowledge its own role in helping finance the disruption of the world’s climate”–which disproportionately impacts women, people of color, and marginalized peoples least responsible for climate change–by divesting from fossil fuels.

You can view the faculty’s petition to divest Smith College here. If you are a faculty member of Smith College, we invite you to sign the petition.

Smith Senate Passes Resolution Supporting Fossil Fuel Divestment

On February 3rd, 2015, Smith College Senate voted in favor of a resolution supporting divestment. The resolution agreed with creating a fossil fuel free portfolio because of the strong moral and political arguments for divestment. In addition, senators demanded the formation of a Committee on Investor Responsibility, which will combine voices of various stakeholders in order to seriously consider the possibility of fossil fuel divestment at Smith and the moral implications of remaining invested in this destructive industry.

Divest Smith College worked closely with senators throughout the process to address their concerns. Together, we decided to make a strong statement in support of divestment for moral, political, and long-term financial reasons, in addition to making a direct ask for reinstatement of the CIR. Senate discussed the resolution over the course of several weeks during the open forum portion of their meetings, with Divest Smith College taking a backseat in these discussions while remaining present to provide additional information.

The resolution is a strong statement from students in favor of fossil fuel divestment. 40 senators voted “yes,” with only 2 “no”s and 5 abstentions.

Students Flood Smith College President’s Office with Singing Valentine Calling for Divestment

Northampton, MA –  30 singing students flooded into Smith College President Kathleen McCartney’s office today to deliver a Valentine’s Day card signed by over 100 members of the student body to demand the college divest from fossil fuels.

Divest Smith College was joined by the a capella group The Notables to deliver the singing Valentine and card. “Please divest our endowment fund! Put big oil on the run! Wind and solar will get us through! We’re breaking up with fossil fuels!” they sang as they entered College Hall.

“President McCartney has not come out in favor of or against divesting our endowment from fossil fuels. We’re asking her to “be our Valentine” by accepting our card and publicly supporting divestment on Valentine’s Day,” said Callie Sieh ‘18J, a member of Divest Smith College.

“Smith College’s investments must reflect the values of the College. With 84.2% of the student body and over 85% of the student Senate in support of divestment from fossil fuels, the current investment strategy is clearly in opposition to the position of our student body,” said Eleanor Adachi ‘17, an outreach leader for the group.

Divest Smith College advocates for investment standards that will establish Smith College as a model for an economically viable, socially proactive, and environmentally committed institution. The campaign calls on Smith College to (1) freeze any new investment in fossil-fuel companies, and (2) commit now to divest within five years from direct ownership and from any commingled funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.

Smithies gather outside the Grecourt Gates to ask President McCartney to support fossil fuel divestment.

Smithies gather outside the Grecourt Gates to ask President McCartney to support fossil fuel divestment.

Response to “Fossil Fuels Update”

On September 8th an email titled “Fossil fuels update” was sent to students, faculty, and staff of Smith College. The email informed the Smith community that the Investment Committee of the Board of trustees had voted unanimously to transfer one million dollars of Smith’s endowment into a sustainable and global equities fund. The following is an open letter of response from Divest Smith College.

Dear President McCartney and Chairperson Eveillard,

When representatives from Divest Smith College met with select members of the Board of Trustees last spring, we vocalized our belief that divestment from the fossil fuel industry is the right choice for Smith College. This belief is reflected by the student body, as shown by the overwhelming majority that passed a student body referendum last spring, in favor of divestment. The unanimous vote by the investment committee of the Board of Trustees to transfer one million dollars into Investure’s sustainable global equities fund reminds Divest Smith College that we need to continue to encourage a dialogue on campus about why we believe full divestment from the fossil fuel industry is what is best for Smith College and for the world.

Our campaign is centered around the belief that Smith College has a moral responsibility to divest. The Fossil fuels update letter focused largely on Smith’s value of sustainability, but Divest Smith College believes that investing in fossil fuels means much more than funding environmental destruction.We are financially supporting an industry that strips communities of the ability to thrive. In Holyoke, where there is a coal-fired power plant, one in four children has asthma. In Appalachia, where there is nearly unchecked fracking, strip-mining, and mountaintop removal, some communities’ water supply is so polluted with methane that it can be lit on fire as it come out of the tap. Climate change refugees, fleeing their homes due to flooding and extreme weather events, continue to grow in number. Those who are the least to blame for this crisis will suffer from it the most.

The letter did not address that Smith’s continued investment in fossil fuels is not only unaligned with Smith’s values, but also financially unsustainable. The market value of fossil fuels is calculated with the assumption that all fossil fuels on record will be useable in the future. However, in order to keep the average temperature of the planet from increasing any more than two degrees Celsius, 80% of fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. By remaining invested in fossil fuels, Smith College is betting on a resource whose value will inevitably and drastically depreciate. Recently, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a former constituent of Investure, divested their 860 million dollars from the fossil fuel industry as a means of aligning their assets with their environmental principles. They are among a host of individuals, institutions, and private investors to act as leading-edge movers who have committed to divest collectively fifty billion dollars from fossil fuels. If Smith is to “model solutions that contribute to a sustainable future,” we cannot afford to be less than at the forefront of this movement.

Divestment is ultimately the only choice for Smith that is environmentally sustainable, ethically sound, and financially responsible. It is imperative that we communicate to the fossil fuel industry that Smith College will not stand for the destruction of the environment, the marginalization of human beings, or the corruption of our democratic process. We must refuse to take part in some of the modern world’s most oppressive systems, those that profit from the abuse of the planet and its people, and disproportionately exploit people with less money and people of color. As Smith College community members we must all work together to safeguard the mission and future of our institution while maintaining the financial integrity of our endowment.

Divest Smith College is excited to continue to work collaboratively with the administration, the Board of Trustees, and the larger Smith College community to encourage more dialogue about divestment. It remains our belief that divestment is the right choice for Smith, and we are eager to continue to push for a diverse and dynamic conversation about the benefits and tradeoffs of aligning our money with our morals.

Event on Friday, October 24th – Fossil Fuels and Institutional Racism: The Intersection, A Talk by Jacqui Patterson

This Friday, October 24th, at 4:30pm, in Weinstein Auditorium, there will be a discussion with Jacqui Patterson, the director of the Climate and Environment Justice Program at the NAACP. (Click here to access the facebook event!) She will be talking about the disproportionate destructive impact that the fossil fuel industry has on people of color. Climate justice and racial justice are inextricably linked, and both are issues that the Smith community needs to address. This talk will discuss the commonalities of the racial justice and climate justice movements, and highlight Smith’s unique and important role in each of them.

Come kick off Parents’ Weekend with us!
Open to the 5-College community and the public.

This event is co-hosted by Divest Smith College and Smith College Green Team.

Smith College Board of Trustees votes unanimously to transfer $1 million from endowment to a sustainable fund

Today, September 8, President McCartney announced via an e-mail to all of Smith College that the investment committee of the Board of Trustees has unanimously approved $1 million to be invested in a sustainable global equities fund managed by Investure, the firm that oversees Smith’s endowment investments. The following is the exact text of the e-mail received by the Smith Community this morning from the Office of the President:

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Over the course of the 2013-14 academic year, Smith students, faculty and staff engaged
in a series of campus conversations in relation to the worldwide campaign to divest
campuses, communities, and institutions from fossil fuels. The President’s Office, the
Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability (CEEDS) and Divest Smith
College collaborated on panel discussions and educational sessions to understand the
potential benefits and tradeoffs of fossil fuels divestment.

Over the years, student leadership has been instrumental in bringing attention to the
imperatives of climate change. Last spring, student representatives of Divest Smith College
met with a group of trustees to discuss their climate action goals. They asked the Board
to consider making an endowment investment in a sustainable investment fund. We are
proud to announce that, in June, the Investment Committee of the Board unanimously
approved that request. The Board’s investment committee approved $1 million to
be invested in a sustainable global equities fund managed by Investure, the firm that
oversees Smith’s endowment investments. Today, nearly 9 percent or $150 million of the
college’s endowment portfolio is invested with managers whose decisions are guided by
environmental, social or governance (ESG) factors.

The Board’s investment decision is one in a series of commitments Smith has made in
service of a sustainable future. In 2010, Smith adopted an ambitious 20-year plan to reduce
the college’s environmental impact. Our “Sustainability and Climate Action Management
Plan” defines benchmarks the college has pledged to achieve by 2030 under the American
College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Through the leadership of
students, faculty and staff, and with the commitment of our entire community, we are
making significant progress toward those and other sustainability goals.

As an educational institution, one of the most significant environmental impacts Smith can
have is as an innovator, leading-edge mover, and disseminator of knowledge. Our Bechtel
Environmental Classroom, completed in 2012, is one of the greenest buildings in the United
States. It is only the fifth structure in the world to complete the Living Building Challenge.
The facility, along with the Center for the Environment (CEEDS) and the newly approved
major in environmental science and policy, attest to Smith’s commitment to produce
environmentally educated leaders.

We extend this commitment to our campus operations as well. At this time, we remain
reliant on fossil fuel for heat and electricity. However, by generating these via co-
generation, we have significantly increased our energy efficiency and independence,
reducing our need to purchase electricity from the grid. We began co-generating heat and
power in 2008; in 2013, the system began year-round operation, supplying not only heat
and hot water but chilled water for air conditioning. Where we formerly purchased all of
our electricity on the open market, in 2013, we produced about 17 million kilowatt hours
(kwh) and purchased only 7 million kwh, a 70 percent reduction of purchased electricity
and an annual savings to the budget of more than $1 million.

Solar power is also contributing to our sustainability goals. In 2009, we located 30 solar
panels on the Campus Center. In 2013, we augmented this array with 1,500 additional
panels on the Indoor Track and Tennis Building and Ford Hall. Combined, these solar
panels generate electricity sufficient to power 53 average U.S. households. Each year, they
help us avoid the same amount of carbon emissions absorbed by 77 acres of forest. As an
added benefit, Smith will realize savings of $20,000 annually over the next 20 years.

Local sourcing of food is also a sustainability goal at Smith. Dining Services currently
obtains about 22 percent of its food from local, sustainable sources; with grant support
from the Kendall Foundation, they are seeking to increase their local produce, fish and
meat sources. Doing so will reduce fuel consumption as well as supporting local family
farms and producers. Since 2001, Smith’s recycling and food-waste composting programs
have cut in half the amount of solid waste we send to the landfill.

The challenges of global climate change are urgent and complex. At Smith, even as we
seek to reduce our carbon footprint, fossil energy consumption remains a significant and
undeniable fact of our operation as a residential college. But every step we take, whether
dramatic or modest, contributes to the collective motivation to address one of the most
pressing challenges of our time. We will continue to reduce our own reliance on gas and
oil, take leadership in sustainability education, advocate for economic and policy measures
that curb greenhouse gas emissions, and model solutions that contribute to a sustainable
future.

Sincerely,

Kathleen McCartney
President

Elizabeth Eveillard ’69
Chair, Smith College Board of Trustees

This decision was a direct result of student activism, and it shows the power of student engagement at Smith. While this $1 million transferred is a good first step toward greater institutional responsibility, we look forward to the continued dialogue on fossil fuel divestment.

Smith College Student Body Votes in Favor of Divestment

Yesterday, the Student Government Association announced that Smith College students voted overwhelmingly in support of divestment from the fossil fuel industry. The student body believes Smith has a moral and financial responsibility to divest our endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

The vote is a great step towards institutional change. Now that this student body referendum has passed, it is critical that we keep pushing our administration and Board of Trustees to divest.

The Smith community is eager to move this conversation forward.

Please contact Divest Smith College if you would like to add your name to our list of allies and receive email updates about important campaign events.