We Are Mountain Justice, Ask Us Anything About the Referendum

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swarthmore divestment

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

We want to answer your questions about the upcoming referendum and divestment. Submit your questions below and we’ll respond tomorrow.

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More info about the referendum:

This Monday and Tuesday, SGO will administer a school-wide student referendum on fossil fuel divestment. Fossil fuel divestment means removing our financial support from the 200 largest coal, oil and natural gas companies. The goal is to stigmatize and socially isolate the industry. Swarthmore’s campaign to divest began in 2011, and was the first of its kind: today, over 5 trillion dollars have been divested.

This referendum, the first in the campaign’s history, calls on the Board of Managers to partially divest our endowment over 5 years. Specifically to switch separately managed and commingled funds into fossil free accounts only when our existing managers offer such options. This addresses the Board’s major objection to fossil fuel divestment by avoiding having to change our existing investment managers.

This is an essential first step in an era when institutions need to take moral leadership. Divestment is a powerful way for us to reject the climate denial of Trump and his cabinet. Voting is accessible through the link bit.ly/DivestSwat.


  1. Will divestment have an immediate impact on the endowment, thus decreasing the school’s ability the provide students with the same/an adequate amount of financial aid?

  2. How do you expect the investment office to divest if they only pick portfolio managers (PMs) and it’s the PMs that have jurisdiction whether or not to divest from “fossil fuels?”

  3. If you lose, will you honor the result and stop the campaign? Or do you only intend to force the other side to abide by a positive result?

  4. Given that the board has said it is not interested in reexamining this issue, why not devote your time and energy to something that could make a real impact in the near future?

  5. Why the focus on divestment when the college is doing so much other work to be sustainable (like green buildings and becoming carbon neutral), especially when divesting could possibly affect the college’s ability to continue funding programs like current sustainable building projects or even financial aid?

  6. Can you be more specific about what the differences are between the partial divestment you’re proposing and full divestment, as well as the extent to which you consulted people from the board and the administration to come up with the proposal?

  7. Direct democracy is a good way to make some decisions, but there are other decisions which the average voter is not competent to make. Why do you think that the average Swarthmore student is the best judge of where the college ought and ought not to invest its endowment? I, for one, know very little about the financial ramifications of divestment and even less about the effects divestment would have on the fossil fuel industry and climate change as a whole. Do you truly believe that the average student is qualified to make this decision?

  8. I have heard nothing about this referendum until less than a week ago, and I am worried that because of the late notice, not very many students will vote in the referendum. Is there a minimum number of votes that must be cast for the referendum to be valid?

  9. Why is the referendum being pushed through so quickly? It seems as though the short notice (I hadn’t heard about this before the weekend) will not allow time for informed debate and dialogue on the issue. Particularly, I can see this lack of time affecting freshmen who weren’t on campus when divestment was last discussed, and may not be aware of many of the pros and cons.

  10. Why does the Google form for voting record your email address when you vote? I’m not voting if it’s not a secret ballot.

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