By Delphine Burns
Upon walking across campus on Friday afternoon, students may have noticed thunderous chanting, bold signs and an enthusiastic protest. Pitzer College students gathered outside West Hall on Oct. 11 to show their support for a campaign called Divestment.
“50 forward, Fossil free,” was the chant being echoed in support of the movement. Divestment Club is a student-run group campaigning to divest Pitzer’s endowment from Fossil Fuels. Many students believe that the college’s actions are not consistent with its core value of environmental sustainability, however not all students are supportive of the movement. Those who are argue that investing in fossil fuels directly challenges this value. As for the “50 forward” portion of the chant, 2013 is Pitzer’s 50 year anniversary. Students hope that divesting from fossil fuels this year will celebrate the school’s values at a monumental time.
At the event, students gathered in a circle and recited their personal reasons for valuing Divestment. Reasons students supported the movement ranged from desiring a cleaner community for grandchildren, to having a say in where their tuition money goes. There was also a petition present at the event for anyone to sign and show support for Divestment. The Divestment Facebook page now features photographs of many students holding signs displaying their personal reasoning for backing the movement.
At 1:30 pm on Friday, students attended the meeting of the Board of Trustees, and presented videos and financial evidence to convince the board that Divestment is the right decision for Pitzer.
Sophomore Morissa Zuckerman is the head of the Actions Committee for Divestment, and provided background regarding the movement.
“The campaign started last November when Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, did a speaking tour across the country called Do the Math. About 75 Claremont students went to hear him speak at UCLA, and then returned to campus ready to kick off our campaign,” Zuckerman said.
Divestment Club has a number of different positions for students to fill and get involved in.
“We have all kinds of roles for students, since we are a student campaign through and through. The way we organize our campaign is that we have a strategy team made up of people from different 5Cs, and then 5 committees: actions, creative, media, outreach, and research, each with a committee bottom-liner. We do try to be the least hierarchical as possible and welcome everyone to our strategy meetings, and welcome anyone to have leadership positions or do things such as run meetings or design actions,” Zuckerman said. Zuckerman believes in Divestment for multiple reasons.
“We need to uphold our core values, and there is no use of getting an education if our planet is destroyed,” Zuckerman said. “There is no ‘Planet B.’”
Although students may have varied reasons for being involved in the campaign, they share a common interest in environmental sustainability.
“I decided to become involved in Divestment because I had been interested in environmental issues for a while, specifically climate change, and when I heard about Divestment it seemed to be a way to make real and widespread systematic change,” Zuckerman said. Zuckerman feels that Divestment is a way to call for change on a larger scale.
“It’s more than just getting more efficient light bulbs or driving a hybrid, because to be honest that’s never going to be enough,” Zuckerman said. “We need to target the source of the problem, which is the fossil fuel companies, in order for us to be able to transition towards renewable energy and a sustainable economy.”
Thus far, the campaign has faced various ups and downs.
“The most difficult thing about the campaign is that this is a long and difficult process,” Zuckerman said. “Divestment can be complicated and we want to make sure that we are doing this the right way so that it is beneficial to our colleges, which we strongly believe it is, and to the moral and political goals of Divestment.”
An obstacle Divestment Club faced was arranging meetings with administrations from each of the Claremont Colleges.
“We’ve been working on this campaign for 11 months and just this past weekend got an info session with the Pitzer Board of Trustees,” Zuckerman said. “Pomona’s administration said no to Divestment a few weeks ago without much conversation between their administration and our group. We’ve had a hard time with the administrations from Scripps, Harvey Mudd, and CMC as well but are hopeful for progress in the future.”
Although the campaign has faced struggles and overcome barriers, Zuckerman feels Divestment is worth the obstacles.
“The most rewarding part is seeing how people come alive when they work on this campaign, and knowing that we are working together to do something so amazing, basically to try to change the world. We are part of something so much bigger than ourselves; the broader environmental movement and Divestment movements have spread across the country and even the world at an incredible rate. There are now thousands and thousands of people who identify as being part of the Divestment movement. Here at Claremont, as students who are going to inherit this world, we are claiming this movement as a critical issue of our time and know that a sustainable environment and social justice for all people on this planet are vital for a safe and livable future,” Zuckerman said.
The full Board of Trustees met on Saturday, Oct. 12 for an hour and a half discussing Divestment, and came to a consensus.
“We will release their decision in a written statement in the next few days,” Zuckerman said.