Veronica Brown '17 Assistant News Editor
The senate of the Student Government Association recently passed the Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution from Divest Smith College. Ellen Monroe ’15, one of the leaders of the student organization, answered a few questions about what the resolution means for divestment at Smith.
What did the Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution propose?
The text of the resolution establishes senate’s support for divestment and then calls for the reinstatement of the Committee on Investor Responsibility, which should be composed of students, faculty, alumnae, staff and administrators, in order to investigate the role of Smith’s investments in our moral mission and seriously consider the possibility of divestment.
What was the final count of votes in Senate?
[There were] 40 for, two against [and] five abstentions.
What was the process of writing and rewriting the resolution like?
Divest Smith College drafted the original version of the resolution, which we then presented to senate. We worked closely with interested senators 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 request for reinstatement of the CIR. Senate debated the resolution several times after that during the open forum portion of their meetings, with Divest Smith College taking a back seat in these discussions while remaining present to provide additional information.
What delays or resistance did the resolution face?
One of the biggest setbacks was a large snowstorm at the end of December that postponed the vote until spring semester. One of the concerns that Smith College administrators have repeatedly raised is that our investment management firm, Investure, is reluctant to divest or restrict the choices of their fund managers. Smith College is Investure’s first and largest client, however, which gives us a tremendous amount of power. If Smith College called for a fossil fuel-free portfolio and threatened to leave Investure (we have previously managed our endowment in-house, and there are many other sustainable investment funds), the company would be forced to change their practices.
What progress has Divest Smith College made with dealing with Investure?
We have already seen some success moving Investure towards a more sustainable portfolio. In the fall, President McCartney announced that Smith had moved $1 million into a sustainable investment pool managed by Investure. This move was one of the primary requests that Divest Smith College made during our Spring 2014 meeting with the Board of Trustees and indicates that Investure is not as inflexible as they present themselves.
What is the next step for Divest Smith College?
We are currently organizing a stakeholder panel about divestment, composed of various members of the Smith community. This Earth Week (April 19 to 25), we’re bringing Lakota rapper Frank Waln, who writes music about his experiences as a Native American and member of a community on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction. In addition, we are gearing up for a May meeting with the Board of Trustees.
How did Divest Smith College Celebrate Global Divestment Day?
Global Divestment Day provided us with an opportunity to engage students, faculty and staff on campus as well as add our voices to other groups internationally who are increasing awareness and support for fossil fuel divestment. Throughout the week before, we collected valentines from divestment supporters explaining their personal motivation for asking Smith to divest. The Noteables decided to add their voices to the mix during our delivery of the valentine, and we sang through College Hall on our way to deliver the valentine in order to get the attention of Smith College administrators.
What are your hopes for your Valentine’s Day gesture?
We have worked productively with Smith College administrators over the past few years, even as our views about the moral implications of our investments sometimes diverge, and wanted to express our continued interest in working with President McCartney, as well as remind her of the continued strong support for fossil fuel divestment here at Smith and globally. We hope that President McCartney will accept our offer to be her valentine and express her support for a more sustainable and ethical endowment.