Divest Dickinson Meets With Trustees, Finance Vice President

Alexandra Fosbury ’21, Life & Style Editor

In the beginning of Feb., members involved in the Dickinson community including founders of the club, Divest Dickinson, college administrators, members of the Board of Trustees Committee On Investments and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) from Investure, the college’s investment manager, all met to discuss divestment plans.

According to Brontè Burleigh-Jones, vice president for finance and administration, the meeting was a success, filled with impactful conversations about the future of Dickinson. “The issue of divestment is very complex and the college continues to work with Investure to monitor sustainable investing opportunities in the endowment.  We left the meeting with some assignments for next steps and will continue our dialogue in the near future,” Burleigh-Jones said.

The founding members of Divest Dickinson, the on-campus movement to stop our college from investing in the fossil fuel industry, want to continue working with faculty, staff and trustees to set the precedent of investment in renewable energy. “As a primarily white and wealthy institution we must use our privilege and resources for equity and a livable future for faculty, staff, and students,” wrote members of Divest Dickinson, Espoir DelMain ’21, Lauren Fordyce ’21, Erik Smith ’22, Andrea Wrenn ’22, Maddie DuBoyce ’20 and Giuseppe Collia ’20, in a statement.

According to Divest Dickinson statement, trustees stated that they can see a shift away from fossil fuels and therefore expect to see Dickinson College divest from that industry soon, but it left students wondering “How soon is soon? […] [C]ontinuing this cycle, the energy and motivation of students without action towards divestment from trustees, will mimic the fossil fuel industry, by fizzling out. This would mean we lose the opportunity to continue being the leaders in sustainability that we claim to be, since we were not proactive about our endowment and the industries it supports,” Divest Dickinson commented. 

The significance of divesting from fossil fuels not only signifies Dickinson’s commitment to sustainability, it is also a form of climate justice. “If we are creating the next generation of global citizens – we can’t be giving a bad example of sustainability that is not just, that is not equitable,” said the Divest Dickinson group. Divest Dickinson defined climate justice as “finding the intersection between equity, environmental and social prosperity through systems that not only fulfill our needs, but help everyone thrive; especially those systematically targeted and oppressed through racism, classism, transphobia, sexism, heteronormativity, and toxic masculinity.”

In the meantime, Dickinson has started a variety of other sustainability initiatives, including reaching carbon neutrality in 2020 and investing in LEED certified buildings on campus. Burleigh-Jones also highlighted the $16 million commitment Dickinson has made in its endowment portfolio with Investure towards their Sustainability Series. “The Sustainability Series addresses the demand side of climate change by including alternative energy managers or managers focused on specific sustainability issues,” said Bruleigh-Jones, “The College has also identified certain sustainable investments in the endowment portfolio based on management commitments to meaningful climate change initiatives, such as RE100 and Science Based Targets Initiatives,” she added.

“It started back in 2007 when students petitioned to get the endowment out of companies based in Darfur, Sudan where there was and continues to be injustice and violence. In 2013 there was the first student push for divestment of the endowment from fossil fuels. Yet, a couple weeks ago we found ourselves in the same meeting that must have been happening every year since 2013, with trustees telling us it was their job to maximize return while minimizing risk,” wrote Divest Dickinson.

While Dickinson College’s commitment to sustainability helps the college standout to students, faculty and staff alike, Divest Dickinson wants to continue pushing administration and trustees, particularly after discovering that students and trustees had had similar conversations surrounding the ethics of Dickinson’s investments in the past. 

“If we are to become the global citizens we are supposed to learn to be here at Dickinson then we must understand that these [climate justice and divestment] are linked. It is not an either/or situation. If we are creating the next generation of global citizens- we can’t be giving a bad example of sustainability that is not just, that is not equitable,” Divest Dickinson added.