Since the construction of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline began in December of 2020, Enbridge Energy has been clearcutting trees, desecrating the earth and harming Indigenous communities across northern Minnesota. This is a company and project that Macalester has been investing in for over five years now, despite the deep ethical and environmental harm it causes. Macalester cannot continue to fund a company responsible for so much destruction and violence. While construction of Line 3 is raging across northern Minnesota and threatening the land and water, Indigenous sovereignty and the future of our climate, a resistance movement is fighting to stop the project. Many members of the Macalester community have dedicated years of their lives, and even risked their freedoms, to resist Line 3. When we discovered that Macalester was actively invested in the company building Line 3 we knew we had to call on them to divest. In this piece, we want to share some updates with the community about the campaign we’re calling “Fossil Free Mac 2.0.”
On Feb. 15, we submitted this proposal, calling on the Macalester board of trustees to divest from Enbridge Energy in protest of the Line 3 pipeline. Since then, we’ve seen tremendous support for the proposal flourish on campus. Nearly 800 students, alumni, faculty and staff have signed a petition calling for divestment from Line 3. On Friday, March 5, over 300 Macalester community members blockaded Grand Avenue, calling on the administration to take action on the proposal. We want to thank each and every one of you who came out to stand in solidarity with the Line 3 resistance movement that day! However, despite the powerful community support for this divestment proposal and urgency of the Line 3 fight, the administration is still insisting on following their formal bureaucratic procedure.
In order to provide some context on the bureaucratic delays our first divestment proposal went through, we’d like to outline the process the Macalester administration uses to review proposals made by students to the board of trustees. First, the administration convenes a group called the “Social Responsibility Committee (SRC),” which is formed of faculty, staff, administrators and three students to review proposals to the Macalester board of trustees. After we submitted our proposal, President Rivera explained to us that, “The SRC will make a determination as to whether there is a sufficient basis for trustee consideration of the proposal. If the SRC concludes that there is a reasonable basis to proceed, it will notify me [President Rivera] of its recommendation. If, after reviewing the SRC’s report, I believe the proposal has sufficient basis for consideration, I will refer the proposal to the board.” The board would then review the proposal and vote on it. If you’d like to read the full procedural document, you can find it here.
To reiterate: when students submit a proposal, it is first reviewed by the SRC, then the President, and if both agree that there is “a sufficient basis for trustee consideration,” it then goes to the board. We firmly believe that the vast and growing community support and urgency of the issue are a sufficient basis for the board to expedite the process and immediately review the proposal. Unfortunately, without those bureaucratic stamps of approval, the board will not seriously entertain student activism. The last time the SRC reviewed a divestment proposal, they took four months before sending it to the board of trustees, and it wasn’t until more than a year later that the board held a vote on the matter. Macalester is funding construction that is happening right now and has already caused significant harm to Indigenous communities and the northern Minnesota landscape. It is imperative that the board act with appropriate haste and divest Macalester from Line 3.
The Social Responsibility Committee has begun to review the proposal and we’d like to thank them for acting so promptly. The SRC was given until the end of the semester to meet and consider the proposal. However, they took it upon themselves to begin meeting right away, recognizing “the urgency of the issue,” as environmental studies professor and Chair of the SRC Roopali Phadke said to us in an email. We are grateful to the SRC members for taking our advocacy and this issue seriously.
We want to again stress that destructive construction is currently happening and has been ongoing for some months now. To those involved with the movement to stop Line 3, the urgency of the issue has never been more clear. It is imperative that the Macalester board of trustees respond to the urgency of the issue, and adopt the divestment proposal in May. The Trustees only meet three times a year to make group decisions about the school. During Fossil Free Macalester’s first divestment campaign (more info here), the trustees chronically delayed voting on the proposals brought forth by students. Construction of the Line 3 pipeline is happening at a frightening pace and could be completed as soon as the summer of 2021. If the board attempts to delay voting on this proposal, as they have in the past, pipeline construction may already be done. We are once again urging the board of trustees to adopt this proposal and to further align the college’s finances with its values. This is an essential moment to take action for climate justice and stand in solidarity with the movement to stop Line 3.
By adopting the Line 3 divestment proposal, the Macalester board of trustees could show some support for the students, faculty and staff who are deeply involved with the resistance movement. Dozens of people in the Macalester community are taking action at all levels to stop this pipeline from being built. Last week, several Macalester students were arrested after they chained themselves together to delay construction of the pipeline. Although we’re disappointed that the board won’t engage us directly, the Macalester community’s fierce commitment to this movement inspires us to keep pushing the school to act in accordance with their values by divesting from Enbridge. At this critical moment, our community is organizing, protesting, advocating and taking direct action to support the struggle for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice. We hope the trustees will stand with us in May by promptly reviewing and passing our proposal.
For those looking to get involved or even just learn more about Line 3 and how divestment at Macalester relates, we will be holding a virtual teach-in during the week of April 12. This event will provide background information on divestment and the movement to stop Line 3, virtual actions that people can take to support divestment and more concrete on-ramps to joining Line 3 resistance. We are also looking to foster conversations about what comes next in the fight for environmental justice at Macalester. Line 3, while incredibly important, is also one issue in a much broader fight for environmental and climate justice, and Indigenous sovereignty. We want to support student organizing and encourage the Macalester community at large to stay critical of the institution, and push Macalester to truly embody the principles we believe in.