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Monday, May 23, 2022

Students Prepare To Speak On Divestment

Following student protests, an expert panel attended by hundreds, and countless letters from current students and alumni, seven students will present on the “moral imperative of divestment” to the Board of Trustees at Board’s tri-annual on-campus meeting on Saturday, Feb. 16.

The students will ask for a public commitment to divestment by the spring. Their proposed commitment stipulates that the College would freeze acquisitions of any substantial new holdings in fossil fuel companies and would fully divest from fossil fuel and arms manufacturing companies by 2016.

The students who will be presenting, Teddy Smyth ’15, Jeannie Bartlett ’15, Laura Berry ’16, Nathan Arnosti ’13, Craig Thompson ’13.5, Fernando Jimenez Sandoval ’14 and Kristina Johansson ’14, are all members of student groups pushing for divestment, including Divest for Our Future, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) and the student group that has worked most closely with the administration, the Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI).

According to Smyth, member of Divest for our Future, the students will discuss the financial feasibility of divestment, the student and alumni support for the measure as well as the moral and ethical arguments surrounding divesting the College’s endowment.

One of the most prominent points of leverage for these students will be statistics from a recent Student Government Association (SGA) survey, in which 60.69 percent of the 1,295 student respondents favored some form of divestment — either from the top-200 fossil fuel companies, from arms manufacturing companies or both.

“We’re going to leverage the amount of press divestment has already gotten, and emphasize what a positive response the College has received for the other sustainability initiatives,” said Smyth.

Dean of Environmental Affairs Nan Jenks-Jay drew a parallel between the current collaboration between students and administrators on divestment and prior initiatives.

In 2006, following seven months of analysis, student presentations and three board meetings, the Board of Trustees committed to the goal of carbon neutrality by 2016. In 2010, following a similarly lengthy discussion, a decision was also made to allow students to participate in the Solar Decathlon.

In an email, Jenks-Jay emphasized the administration’s willingness to work with students.

“Middlebury students are in a unique position [of] having access to the senior administration of the College, the president, board chairperson and trustees,” she said.

“Middlebury is a place that engages students thinking at all levels, that embraces change and that is capable of moving forward with clearly understood, well calculated risk for the College … which is why the upcoming student panel should be well prepared for the divestment discussion with the Board of Trustees.”

“We want it to be clear that we’re willing to work with the trustees to make divestment a reality any way we can, and emphasize the opportunity for continued exploration and growth moving forward into the spring,” said Smyth.


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