Wednesday at 12:20 p.m. Mountain Justice gathered in Parrish Parlors to demand that several Board members who have ties to the fossil fuel industry recuse themselves from future Board discussions of divestment. About 10 Mountain Justice members, wearing the orange felt pins that symbolize the divestment movement, stood on the steps in Parrish while about twenty onlookers watched. Mountain Justice members Rachel Pomerantz ’19, Sophia Elan ’18, and Shana Herman ’19 read from a prepared statement while other M.J. members handed out flyers detailing their case as to why three individual board members should recuse themselves. Empty chairs with the names and fossil fuel industry connections of board member emeritus Samuel Hayes III ’57, Vice Chair Rhonda Cohen ’76, and Investment Committee member Harold Kalkstein ’78, stood in between the two stairwells of Parrish. Members of Mountain Justice stated that the chairs represented that these individuals should not be present during the next board meeting when divestment will be discussed.
Mountain Justice detailed the business connections of the three board members. Harold Kalkstein is associated with the Boston Consulting Group. The consulting company has recommended oil drilling in the Arctic and the repeal of the U.S. ban on crude oil exports. Rhonda Cohen sits on the Board of Directors of the Glenmede Trust, an investment group which has a large stake in Exxon Mobil. Samuel Hayes served for 20 years on the Board of the Eaton Vance family trust, which also own a large stake in Exxon Mobil and several other fossil fuel corporations. Elan said that Mountain Justice was happy with the turnout, “I’m really excited to see how many people in the community are invested in Mountain Justice.”
Elan also said Mountain Justice would be asking the three members of the Board personally by email to recuse themselves from future Board discussions and votes regarding fossil fuel divestment. Stephen O’Hanlon ’17, who in the last year has been a major figure in the Swarthmore Mountain Justice, was notably absent from the protest due to the fact that he is studying abroad this semester. The Board’s next meeting is February 20 though no planned action for that date was announced.