Faculty Votes in Favor of Resolution Supporting Fossil Fuel 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.

On March 24th, 53 members of the Swarthmore faculty voted in favor of a resolution expressing support for fossil fuel divestment.

The resolution was a reaffirmation of a previous 2015 faculty resolution, passed in the midst of Mountain Justice’s 32-day sit-in, which urged the Board of Managers to divest. The faculty chose to reaffirm the resolution, said Associate Professor of Sociology Lee Smithey, due in part to a “renewed momentum around divestment.” Faculty members began discussing the most recent resolution around the same time that the SGO divestment referendum, which would later pass by an overwhelming majority, was in the works.

The new resolution was the product of several meetings, during which faculty members engaged in what Smithey described as a “full and searching conversation” about divestment. Though the vote on the resolution was not unanimous, Smithey emphasized that the final product “reflects the sentiment of the faculty.”

In the text of the resolution, faculty cite several reasons for divesting, including “climate disruption,” “unequal burdens of climate change,” and the “unprecedented influence by the fossil fuel industry” in the Trump administration. “We want the college to critically correlate its social values and its fiduciary responsibilities to the endowment,” Professor of Religion Mark Wallace said.

Wallace described the proposals in the 2015 resolution as “modest.” In reaffirming this resolution, the faculty calls upon the Board of Managers to divest from specific fossil-fuel companies within separately-managed accounts, or accounts that are controlled exclusively by the college, a proposal that was also included in the SGO referendum. Unlike the referendum, though, the faculty resolution does not call for divestment within commingled accounts, or accounts that are also managed by other institutions. When the faculty resolution was initially devised in 2015, it was intended to serve, Smithey said, as “a compromise position between what the students wanted and the board’s decision [not to divest].”

Student activists have responded positively to the faculty resolution. “We’re really excited to see [the faculty] endorsing this,” Mountain Justice member Aru Shiney-Ajay ‘20 said.

Shiney-Ajay also pointed out that the faculty resolution was passed soon after a group of alumni published an open letter expressing support for Mountain Justice. “I think it’s really notable that at this point every major body has been calling on the administration to divest from fossil fuels.”

With the recent upswell of support, faculty members who advocate for divestment are optimistic. “I do think this will happen. I think at some point, hopefully in the near future, the college will recognize that it should not continue to lend its capital to a toxic industry,” Wallace said.

Katie Pruitt

Katie '20 is from McLean, VA, majoring in economics and minoring in political science. In the little time she isn’t studying, going to class, or working on The Phoenix, you can find her listening to podcasts or rereading the same ten or so books for the millionth, billionth time. She doesn’t know what she wants to do after college and she wishes that people would stop asking her about it.

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