We Are Not Neutral

By Guest Contributor

There has been quite a bit of talk about divestment at Middlebury College in the past few weeks. For many students, this is their first exposure to the reality of our college’s endowment, which is invested with very limited, if any, screening for environmental and social criteria.

Others have heard about the endowment from the Socially Responsible Investment group for years, and some have grown tired of the word endowment, the petitions and the sometimes heated pre-Proctor lunch conversations.

Talking about the endowment is challenging. It is not particularly exciting or easy to understand.

However, it is important.

And it is our responsibility to think of this endowment as ours, as proud Middlebury students, as beneficiaries of the over $800 million.

It is our responsibility to make sure that when Middlebury goes carbon neutral, we aren’t building our solar panels with money from fracking in Appalachia, or from corporations who fund lobbying against climate change legislation.

A growing number of students at Middlebury have joined the national movement, now underway on more than 40 college and university campuses, in demanding that our schools divest from coal and fossil fuels. We recognize that in not acting, we are not neutral. We are supporting continued dependence on unsustainable practices that Middlebury’s commitment to environmental stewardship contradicts. As Schumann Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben of 350.org says, our college degrees won’t be much good if we don’t have a livable planet on which to make use of them.

In 2004, the College’s Board of Trustees endorsed the Commitment to Carbon Reduction, which stated, “We join with the College’s administration, students, faculty, staff and alumni in the dedication of intellectual and fiscal capital to responsibly engage in this paradigm shift away from our fossil fuel dependency.” We are not trying to convince Middlebury that this community shouldn’t support coal and fossil fuel investment.  Middlebury has already made this commitment. We are simply asking them to take the natural next step in fulfilling it.

Middlebury College Board of Trustees, we ask you to commit to dedicating our fiscal capital in the paradigm shift away from coal and fossil fuel dependency.

And Middlebury community, we ask that you not be neutral on this issue. We ask you to join with us in demanding Middlebury do better. Let’s ensure this place is one we can continue to be proud of.

Join us at 8:30 p.m. tonight in Axinn 219 for an introduction to divestment and the campaign co-sponsored by the Socially Responsible Investment group and the Divestment team.

Also, please join us for a Town Hall meeting tomorrow at 4 p.m. to bring together voices from across campus and from different coalitions to discuss divestment.

Check the calendar and public message boards for further information.

Written by GRETA NEUBAUER ’14.5 of Racine, Wisc.