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“Define Your Terms:” in this case, “Divestment”

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To the Editor:

Our experience at Swarthmore five decades ago imprinted on us the value and importance of the first three words above.

We wonder if there are some significant differences in what parties in the discussion really mean by the term “divestment.”

The title of Board of Managers Chair Gil Kemp’s “empty gesture” op-ed on 20 November in the Phoenix is indeed accurate if the only action the college takes is to sell shares.  No one would know or notice.  Nothing accomplished.  This is the meaning of “divestment” used by money managers.  No additional purposes.

Gil’s op-ed title is not accurate, however, if the act and purpose of selling are publicly announced to the general and financial press, and perhaps even to board chairs at other schools and in their newspapers.  A public request from Gil to meet personally with the chair of the coal, tar sands, or other polluting company, with further publicity about the company’s (negative) reply, etc., would make the college’s leadership action even more meaningful.

The effects of such steps are hard to measure, but we believe something valuable is achieved.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is unloading significant fossil-fuel holdings and has become a very positive model — substantive action WITH significant, well-deserved publicity.

Swarthmore could do the same.

Edith Eddy ’64 and Jeb Eddy ’63

Palo Alto, CA

1 Comment

  1. I concur. However, there can be more. Divestment will usually be followed by reinvestment of the proceeds of selling. In divesting of fossil fuels the college–or any organization or individual–may reinvest in renewable energy production companies, primarily solar and wind.

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