Press Release: Tufts Students Meet with Trustees to Demand Fossil Fuel Divestment

from gofossilfree.org

Here’s a press release from the divestment crew at Tufts about a big meeting they just had with their board of trustees: 

Boston, MA—Early Thursday morning, students with the group Tufts Divest for our Future met for the first time with the Investment Committee of Tufts University’s Board of Trustees to discuss divesting the endowment from fossil fuels.

While four students engaged in dialogue with the Board members, over forty other students and community members stood outside the meeting with signs. The group supports divestment as a method to draw attention to the conflict between the fossil fuel industry’s business plan and the hope of preserving a stable climate system.

In the meeting, the Trustees told students that roughly 5% of Tufts’ endowment is invested in fossil fuels. They made it clear that divestment would be a “challenging and difficult” process crequiring serious financial consideration, but invited the students to meet with them again in two weeks.

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“We appreciate the administration’s willingness to communicate with us and continue discussion,” said Anna Lello-Smith, a junior at Tufts who was among the group of four students that met with the Board. “At the same time, there is very little time left to combat the climate crisis. We hope the Board understands the urgency of the problem and acts with similar urgency themselves.”

Tufts Divest for Our Future began its fossil fuel divestment campaign last September, asking the university to divest from the top 200 oil, coal, and gas corporations that possess the majority of the world’s carbon reserves. After a semester of teach-ins and workshops, over 1,100 students and 185 alumni have signed petitions in support of divestment.

The Tufts campaign is part of a nationwide movement with over 200 other colleges and universities. The movement, supported by 350.org and other organizations such as Cambridge-based Better Future Project, won early victories last fall when Unity College and the City of Seattle announced intentions to divest.

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Show the Board you support divestment!

Show the Board you support divestment!

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Four students are meeting with Tufts Board of Trustees Investment Committee, urging them to divest our endowment from fossil fuels. This is a HUGELY important meeting, and we need to show them that the Tufts community is serious about divestment.

Meet Thursday January 24, 7:35 a.m. at the Campus Center. We’ll take the Joey and the T together to the Tufts Dental School. RSVP to the eventhttps://www.facebook.com/events/397535777007707/
Contact Shira for more info: shira.rascoe@tufts.edu, 412.760.7744

Making Friends Amongst Activists

By Sabrina McMillin, class of 2015

It was the summer of 2012, and as I gingerly opened the heavy envelope containing the book for that year’s Common Reading program, I knew that even though I was a transfer student and did not know how to fit in amongst the peachy young freshmen and the returning students, I would somehow find my place. The book in question, Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, covered various environmental issues without being too esoteric for a non-science major like myself. To be honest, the book is what first sparked my strong interest in climate change and environmental conservation. Even though I was aware of the importance of conservation, being the first person in my house to advocate for recycling during my childhood, I never connected the issues we face as the de facto “groundskeepers” of Earth to the many breaches of human rights. But Ms. Leonard’s work has challenged me, and likely other Tufts students, to question the inefficiencies and greed that pervade the American economy and hurt our chances at a sustainable future on this planet and amongst humanity.

When I signed up on the Tufts Divest for Our Future e-mailing list, I figured it would be just like any other club: I’d get some e-mails, maybe attend a few special events here and there, and carry on with my life. But a simple writing mistake on my part (I absentmindedly wrote “@gmail.com” instead of “@tufts.edu”) led me to a personal interaction on Facebook with Dan Jubelirer, a co-founder of the group. After having discussed the mistake, my proper e-mail address was added to the list and I had a decent conversation with Dan, who struck me as very bright, kind, and steadfast in his recruiting abilities. Though I had missed the first meeting, Dan encouraged me to attend the next one.

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Tufts Divest having fun. Feeling unusually obligated due to our conversation and with Ms. Leonard’s lessons on the mind, I decided to give Divestment a shot. I had admittedly expected a group of deadpan activists with a nihilistic attitude towards life (hey, they were fighting climate change, after all), but what I encountered were several of the most interesting, passionate, funny, and intelligent peers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I soon assimilated into the group as a regular member and eventually became one of its social media team leaders.

Tufts Divest for Our Future has serious goals. But one of the things I love about being a part of it is never having to stress out if I’m sick or too busy with homework to miss a meeting. My favorite activists are truly understanding, and if you’re interested in joining, you don’t have to fear being yelled at for taking some time off. The truth is, some people come and go, but the effort of the group is unwavering and focused. Although I would like to avoid an arrest record, I read in awe as I found that two of my group friends, Emily Edgerly and Shea Riester, made national news when they were arrested for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline at the TransCanada office in Westborough, MA.

The truth is, I could never be as daring and self-sacrificing as some of my fellow Divestment friends are. I am merely a behind-the-scenes person, helping out with social media and enjoying the time spent together. And when the famous Annie Leonard visited the Tufts campus in Medford for a lecture in October, I was able to partake in an unforgettably interesting conversation with her, amongst a few of my newly found friends.

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Ms. Leonard even signed my copy of her book with a personal message!

Whether we’re sitting in a meeting and plotting strategies or simply playing a third round of Bananagrams, I look around the room and know that I have found my place at Tufts. Now I challenge you, dear reader, to check out Tufts Divest in Our Future. We’re holding our first meeting of the spring semester on Monday, January 21st at 9 PM in the East Hall lounge. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a die-hard activist, give it a try. You may just meet some of your future friends.

Just Before Spring Semester, a Look Back

In recent weeks, the nation has seen the fervor mounting over the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, and the Jumbos invested – if you’ll forgive the pun – in such issues have been paying keen attention. In a way, these recent events could turn out to serve as a great crescendo, a gathering-up of momentum, to usher in the new spring semester at Tufts; and with it, a new surge of advocacy for divestment of our university’s endowment from fossil fuels corporations. But before that rapidly-approaching arrival of the future – classes resume on January 16th – let’s take a moment to review the work and journey of Tufts Divest since its inception in the Fall of 2012.

Making Divestment Banners

Making Divestment Banners

Most people of the environmental mindset – indeed, most Americans who haven’t been living under a rock for the past six months – remember Bill McKibben’s vigorously viral Rolling Stone article, “Climate Change’s Terrifying New Math,” published in August of last year. Readers were informed of exactly why being freaked out is, according to the arithmetic, the only rational reaction to the global warming’s trajectory. McKibben went on to suggest a specific and effective outlet for all that anxiety: divestment, a time-tested strategy in sanctioning The Powers That Be (in this case, fossil fuel corps and the investors that back them) into heeding to the concerns of the indignant observers (environmentalists and humanitarians worldwide, collegiate and otherwise).

Use of the word “terrifying” turned out to seem far from an exaggeration: to date, nearly 200 colleges and universities – and, recently, high schools and even Seattle – have formed divestment campaigns, inspiration largely thanks to McKibben-founded 350.org’s Go Fossil Free movement. Tufts’ began this past September, and one of the first actions was a mass petitioning effort. Short-term goals mounted larger and larger until we were eventually able to present to our administration, and greater student body, a list of over 1,000 signatures from students, alumni, and faculty, supporting removal of investment from the institutions denoted by Carbon Tracker Initiative’s list of the top 200 publicly-owned fossil fuels companies.

Official dialogue with Tufts University administration commenced early October, with divestment representatives meeting with the University’s Vice President to discuss our campaign and the issue at hand. Just a couple short weeks later was a national Day of Action for Fossil Fuel Divestment, on October 24th. We marched through campus with pro-divestment banners, spreading the word about the campaign, culminating with a banner drop in the campus center, and also draping our cement mascot Jumbo in a “Divest Now!” toga of his own.

Fossil Fuel Day of Action - Jumbo gets a divestment toga!

Fossil Fuel Day of Action – Jumbo gets a divestment toga!

Throughout the semester, we organized several “teach-in’s,” sharing information about the movement, climate change science, the economics and intentions of divestment, and other relevant topics. Along with Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), Tufts Divest joined the Better Future Project for a gathering of climate activists, including McKibben himself, in early October. Members of the divestment campaign also met this author of the fossil fuels divestment movement when 350.org’s nationwide Do The Math tour made its stop in Boston in mid-November.

Collaborations with SJSF continued through the semester, including participation in the Vigil to End Climate Silence, October 23rd to the 30th. This weeklong stakeout and rally at Government Center in downtown Boston featured a lineup of speakers and sought to both draw widespread attention to climate issues, as well as urge then-senatorial hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown to speak out on the need for governmental and policy action to deal with the climate crisis. Finally, amidst all these other projects, Tufts Divest – along with our post-grad partners of the Tufts Alumni for Fossil Fuel Divestment – was hard at work craftingan official proposal to the Tufts Board of Trustees, with demands and recommendations for divestment of the Tufts University endowment from fossil fuel corporations. The proposal advocates reinvestment into companies which exhibit social responsibility and promote societal welfare.

As we move forward into the Spring semester of 2013, Tufts Divest is looking to hit the ground running. We look forward to our Fossil Fuel Divestment Teach-In later this month; to expanding student awareness and support on campus; and to using our position of privilege, and our unique student power, to keep up the fight for climate justice.

–K.C.

upcoming event: Fossil Fuel divestment teach-in 1/24!

What?  Fossil Fuel Divestment Teach-In. What’s Climate Change Got to do with our Endowment?

When? Thursday, jan 24th. 7PM

Where? Cabot ASEAN Auditorium, Tufts

We are starting our semester off with a panel of experts, doing a teach in about fossil fuel divestment!

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RSVP on Facebook here

Learn about the growing campaign to Divest from the Fossil Fuel industry!

Tufts Divest is proud to present Bob Massie, President and CEO of the New Economics Institute, Emily Flynn and Mark Orlowski from the Sustainable Endowments Institute, and Professor Agyeman (Director of the Urban Planning Department)

More information about our speakers:
During his career Bob Massie has led three ground-breaking sustainability organizations, serving as the president of Ceres (the largest coalition of investors and environmental groups in the United States), the co-founder and first chair of the Global Reporting Initiative, and the initiator of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, which currently has over 100 members with combined assets of over $10 trillion. He was also a Senate candidate in Massachusetts in 2011. Bob Massie is a legendary anti-apartheid activist, and supporter of divestment campaigns to create social change. http://neweconomicsinstitute.org

The Sustainable Endowments Institute is the creator of the Greening the Bottom Line report and the College Sustainability Report Card.
We hope you can join us!

see more on our events page

Sign up for the SJSF winter retreat!

Join Students for a Just and Stable Future for a 3-day retreat from January 25-27th, 2013.Mihir-couch-border

Students from across New England working on fossil fuel divestment and environmental justice work will come together for a weekend of workshops, trainings, strategy sessions, campaign planning, and community building.

The cost is just for food, sliding scale of 0-$20. Sign up below and please join us!

Signup for the retreat here