Divestment Makes Us Proud


On Jan. 29, Middlebury announced it will begin divesting from fossil fuels over a fifteen year period through the Energy2028 initiative. As a board of students, we are excited and incredibly proud of the collaborative work between student activists, Middlebury administrators, staff, faculty and the Board of Trustees, who unanimously agreed to the proposal. We share in our community’s excitement that our institution is living up to its reputation as an environmental leader. 

Student activism surrounding divestment has persisted through multiple presidents and has been passed down through generations of students. A 2012 article written by Scholar in Residence Bill McKibben for Rolling Stone brought the issue into public focus. In 2013, however, the Board of Trustees voted against divestment. But student activists persisted. 

We are grateful to the students of the Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG) who continued to push for divestment, often writing in our Opinion pages. We applaud the trustees for being willing to rethink their initial stance on divestment, and we hope that other institutions who are disinclined to divest take note that change is possible. Divestment is a complex issue, but this agreement shows that when everyone works together we can find solutions.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that Energy2028 encompasses goals larger than divestment of the 4 percent of our $1.124 billion endowment directly invested in fossil fuels. It promises to transition to 100 percent renewable energies by 2028, to reduce consumption on campus, and to expand environmental educational opportunities. While we know that this plan won’t completely eliminate the school’s indirect investments in fossil fuel companies if they are included in general equity funds, we are still pleased that Middlebury is using a broader definition than most for what constitutes a fossil fuel company in its direct investments. 

We are proud of all that Middlebury has promised and recognized that there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that all of these promises come to pass. We hope that students continue to be climate activists and pass down the knowledge and importance of this agreement to the next generation of students. 

As a paper, we will continue to support student activists in holding Middlebury accountable. Through continued reporting on the history of divestment and on Energy2028 as it unfolds, we want to do our part in giving this initiative its best chance of succeeding by staying invested in its progress. We hope students will continue to write opinion pieces about their activist work. 

Those who are skeptical of this announcement have every right to be. Some student activists were dismayed in 2016, when Middlebury reached carbon neutrality only by purchasing carbon offsets from its Bread Loaf campus. But we hope that Energy2028 is the next step of a truly more progressive Middlebury in all realms. We hope the college will continue to practice transparency, detailing how exactly the goals of Energy2028 will be met, and continue soliciting student opinion. 

We are grateful for the leadership of Laurie Patton and the Middlebury students, professors, community members and administrators who helped make divestment a reality. We are excited to traverse this new frontier and see how Energy2028 unfolds.