On Feb. 28, CCSGA approved a resolution calling for Colorado College to divest from the fossil fuel industry. This resolution materialized as a result of pro-divestment sentiment on campus, which has escalated over the course of the past few years and prompted the formation of the Student Divestment Committee.
The resolution, approved by a vote of ten in favor, two opposed, and three abstentions, clearly delineates CCSGA’s moral and practical grounds on which it decided to formally oppose the inclusion of fossil fuel companies in CC’s endowment. It also indicates CCSGA’s endorsement of a national, university-oriented movement to eliminate stakes in fossil fuel companies.
Weston Sandfort ‘16 is a member of the Student Divestment Committee and identifies with the values behind divestment.
“As far as effects on campus go, our belief is really that it’s not going to have that much of an effect for the next few years,” Sandfort said.
The topic of divestment had been previously mentioned in CCSGA’s meetings. In December of 2012, Executive VP Pat Knecht drafted a resolution that outlined the values CCSGA supported regarding divestment.
He presented it to the rest of the Executive Council: Nathan Lee ‘13, Charis Whitnah ‘13, Elliot Mamet ‘15, and Stanley Sigalov ’13.
“We decided to table it for the time being, until we saw more student support,” Knecht said.
On Feb. 28, the Student Divestment Committee went to a CCSGA meeting and explained the case for abstaining from investment in fossil fuels. They had gotten around 700 student signatures endorsing the project as well as creating a proposal in order to show concrete campus support for the cause.
“We didn’t feel that we could take a position until we saw overwhelming student interest,” said CCSGA president Nathan Lee.
The resolution, which is available for viewing on the CCSGA website, explicitly paints divestment as an issue of aligning CC’s constitutional ideals with its investment practices.
“It’s a question of framing the argument in terms of the core values of the college,” Knecht said. “Saying that the practices of extraction, refinement, and transportation are all in contradiction with our core values.”
The Student Divestment Committee, headed by David Cully, Phoenix McLaughlin, and Sophie Javna among others, started to convene in November of 2012.
After a series of endeavors such as information sessions, surveys, and articles, the group decided to form a salient organization now known as the Student Divestment Committee.
They met officially for the first time on Nov. 12. Student Trustee Samantha Barlow played a large part in organizing the group and helping to identify goals.
“The students who were on the, ‘hey, we need to do more about this, we need to really do more research on this, into ways to divest, we need to engage in conversation with the Board,’ that group really kind of took the reins and led the charge,” Barlow said.
The Student Divestment Committee will meet with CC’s Board of Trustees to present their case in May.
The national movement to divest from fossil fuels has included institutions such as Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, and Hampshire College.
It is generally accepted that divestment does not have significant effects on corporations’ share prices. The movement is generally one that aims to conduct a symbolic protest against fossil fuel organizations, not to incur financial ruin on those organizations.
“I don’t think it makes the best sense to frame this in economic terms,” Knecht said. “The impact that we’re intending to have on the CC campus…is one of leadership and showing that the entire process of fossil fuel consumption and management is causing these sociological problems.”
Climate change organizations turn to divestment as an effective form of expression because they see proxy voting and shareholder activism as an ineffective method of communication.
While the Student Divestment Committee has certainly gained traction over the course of this year, the release of CCSGA’s resolution does not indicate that all individuals affiliated with CCSGA support divestment. Nor does it indicate that all CC students support divestment.
“It’s important to understand, too, that there’s student interest on both sides of this issue,” Barlow said. “The survey that we sent out showed that there was an equal number of students who were in favor of divesting…and a number of students who didn’t feel that we should change anything with the way we invest.”