Trustees: We Voted. Now It’s Your Turn.


The recent SGA referendum to divest Middlebury’s endowment from fossil fuels passed with 80 percent support. Clearly, our student body is calling for divestment. This raises the question: Why hasn’t the Board of Trustees voted to divest?

Students came out in record numbers to show their support for divestment. This election boasted a 68 percent voter turnout, representing over a 100 percent increase from last year. This is not just tacit approval — it demonstrates an active “endorsement to divest all endowment assets” by demanding that “Trustees vote in favor and begin the divestment process” during the Fall 2018 board meeting. Our student body insists that we hold our endowment accountable.

By divesting, we would join a global movement. According to data gathered by Fossil Free: Divestment, over 850 institutions around the world have divested $6.09 trillion from the fossil fuels industry. These include Colby College, the University of California system, New York City and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1986, Middlebury divested from apartheid South Africa. Fossil fuels must come next.

Middlebury boasts carbon neutrality, has a world-renowned environmental studies program and signed the American Campuses Act on Climate pledge. Owning $60 million worth of fossil fuel investments lends Middlebury’s moral license and reputation of sustainability to a rogue industry. It is ethical hypocrisy to pay for the education of Middlebury students by investing in companies whose business plans contradict the college’s mission. Trustees have a responsibility to uphold the Middlebury’s purported commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Divesting is a necessary step.

The purpose of our Board of Trustees is “to preserve the institution’s educational excellence and its financial vitality.” The board’s current investments in no way preserve Middlebury’s financial vitality. MSCI, a prominent financial analysis firm, created two nearly identical investment indices with one excluding fossil fuel corporations. If $1 billion had been invested in 2010, the fossil free index would now be worth $2.24 billion, compared to the $2.13 billion worth of the index including fossil fuels.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. The Paris Climate Accords, which Middlebury signed, require we limit Earth’s warming to 2 ̊ Celsius. However, fossil fuel corporations’ current evaluation is contingent upon them burning all reserves, releasing several times more carbon than permitted under the Paris agreement. Fossil fuel investments represent a carbon bubble that will burst as global governments take the necessary action to mitigate climate change.

The trustees’ silence is a failure to practice the “agency necessary” for “ethical citizenship at home and far beyond our Vermont campus” as laid out in Envisioning Middlebury. Hesitancy in endorsing any campaign is understandable, but divestment has broad and consistent support on campus and internationally. Most importantly, divestment is a critical step towards justice. It is time for Middlebury to end its contribution to structures of systemic injustice that feed climate change and disproportionately harm marginalized populations.

Our Board of Trustees now must stand with students and end our college’s support of an ethically corrupt industry. We have a moral imperative to divest, and it’s time our board acts.

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