Mar. 24, 2017

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Kalamazoo, MI

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Est. 1877

Letters

A Message from the Kalamazoo College Climate Action Network

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The Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee will be holding its first meeting tomorrow, Thursday October 22nd. This marks a significant development in the Kalamazoo College Divestment and Reinvestment campaign. The newly formed committee, which consists of students, faculty, staff, trustees, and an investment advisor, will serve the role of reviewing divestment petitions from the student body.

This year marks the first year of operations for the Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee. The committee was formed in response to student demands articulated in a 2013 petition with over 500 signatures, which the divestment campaign at K organized in its first year. The divestment campaign was later absorbed by the Kalamazoo College Climate Action Network upon our founding in the fall of 2014. Our movement (Di/Reinvestment) represents a campaign to shift our college’s endowment away from fossil fuel extraction and transportation firms and into socially and environmentally responsible initiatives.

The fossil fuel divestment movement began in 2011 on the campus of Swarthmore College as Swarthmore Mountain Justice—a campaign to impel the college to divest its endowment from companies that profit from drilling and distributing fossil fuels. Since then, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has spread to over 400 organizations and 2,000 individuals. Fossil fuel divestment pledges now total $2.6 trillion in assets globally, and the movement has seen fifty-fold growth since last year. This movement is just getting started.

Divestment has been used numerous times historically as a tactic to shift public opinion and to rob morally questionable companies of their social license. The largest and most successful divestment campaign rose to prominence during the 1980s, calling upon states, cities, and colleges to divest from companies doing business in South Africa in order to protest Apartheid. Those campaigns succeeded in building a social movement around ending Apartheid in South Africa and assisted in establishing a new era of democracy and equality.

The fossil fuel divestment movement is now gaining serious momentum and will ideally show analogous social power. We believe that Kalamazoo College should play a part in this broader social movement. As an institution committed to social justice and environmental stewardship, the college has a moral obligation to pursue fossil fuel divestment. Our honor code includes a commitment “to the respectful and prudent stewardship of our community’s material and natural resources.” We strongly believe that the college should reflect these values with its investments.

We are optimistic as an organization that the formation of the Socially Responsible Investing Advisory Committee will mark an important step toward an endowment portfolio that aligns with our institutional values and the values of our community. Although we have now seen tangible progress after years of work, we are just getting started, and we need everyone.

Please join the KCCAN General Collective facebook group to learn more about campus and community initiatives to address climate and environmental justice. To follow our campaign, visit kcollegecan.wordpress.com.

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