On February 3, members of Fossil Free Macalester presented their proposal for fossil fuel divestment to the Social Responsibility Committee (SRC). The campaign, which started about two and a half years ago, is asking Macalester to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.
Presenting to the SRC is the first in a series of steps that need to be taken by the campaign in order to gain approval from the administration.
“Once [our proposal] is approved, it will be sent on to the president, and, if he approves it, will be sent on to the Board of Trustees. They’re the ones who can make the final decision and say, ‘yes, we’ll divest from fossil fuels,’” Sonia Pollock ’15 of Fossil Free Mac said.
The campaign has already gained the backing of over 1,200 students via a petition. In addition, MCSG passed a resolution in support of the campaign two years ago.
The resolution stated that “MCSG urges Macalester College, and calls upon the Social Responsibility Committee, to initiate a process to explore socially and fiscally responsible divestment from the fossil fuel industry, and that by exploring divestment, Macalester College can stimulate dialogue about global warming and maintain its reputation as a national leader in climate action as a form of global citizenship.”
The movement is continuing to gain student support. Last Friday, members of Fossil Free Mac hosted a Valentine’s Day photo petition to coincide with Global Divestment Day.
Other colleges around the country have already divested, and many other have ongoing campaigns similar to Macalester’s. Last week, students at Harvard hosted a sit-in at their president’s office in response to her refusal to continue negotiations with them. Several other colleges have already divested, including Stanford University and Pitzer College.
“The national movement is really making powerful changes to the strength of the fossil fuel industry,” Pollock said.
“The main idea is asking Macalester to divest their endowment from fossil fuels, which would mean looking at our investments and asking our endowment managers to shift our endowment away from the top 200 companies with the most fossil fuel reserves,” Pollock explained.
The tough part for Fossil Free, however, is that at the moment, it is not clear which companies the college is invested in.
“That’s one of the complicated things about our endowment — it’s all in hedge funds, so the money moves around a lot,” campaign member Andrew Gage ’15 said. “We know it does end up in fossil fuel-intensive companies, but there’s a lack of transparency. We know that there are investors out there that are using fossil free indexes, and we’re asking Cambridge [the college’s financial advisor] and our administration to look into investors who will change where they are currently investing our money.”
The campaign organizers will be attending a follow-up meeting with the SRC in March, where they hope to gain the committee’s approval. Afterwards, the campaign will move forward to present to the college’s Board of Trustees.
Although a hard road lays ahead, the campaign’s organizers remain optimistic.
“We are at a turning point in higher education, we are at a turning point in the fight against climate change,” campaign co-founder Rick Beckel ’15 said. “I think that the coincidence of those things really puts Macalester and other schools in a position where they can be part of a solution. It will be interesting to see whether Macalester chooses to be part of the solution.”