Sterling College Divests From Oil — No. 3 Of Colleges In Burgeoning Movement
(MintPress) – Sterling College, a small liberal arts institution, became the first college in Vermont and the third college in the nation to fully divest from fossil fuels this week, a move hailed by supporters as an important step forward for the burgeoning fossil fuel divestment movement.
At its Feb. 2 meeting, the Sterling College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to instruct the college’s investment team to divest “swiftly” from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. With an institutional emphasis on ecology and agriculture, the decision received little resistance from the campus community.
The divestment is a small victory for the broader movement, considering Sterling’s small enrollment of just 100 students and 45 full-time staff members. However, the decision is a small but significant step in building momentum in the uphill battle against climate change. Sterling joins Unity College and Hampshire College, both also endorsing full institutional divestment from oil companies.
Sterling College President Matthew Derr commented on the recent decision, saying ,“Sterling College is an incubator for those who care about Vermont, care about the natural world in which we all live, and who want to promote healthy and just food systems, and as such, it makes no sense for us to invest in companies that are wreaking havoc on our climate.”
This sentiment was echoed by Bill McKibben, Sterling College honorary alumnus and the founder of 350.org, one of the organizations leading the nationwide campus divestment campaigns: “Sterling College has always been a leader in sustainability and environmentalism. I am thrilled that Sterling has decided that divestment is an important tool for reversing climate change.”
While just three colleges have divested from fossil fuels, 252 others have ongoing campaigns involving thousands of students across the U.S. Actions for divestment have been met with strong institutional resistance, especially at schools with large endowments like Harvard.
Administrators claim that investments in oil companies provide the maximum return for their institutions, creating more funding to improve academic and athletic programs.
At Harvard University, an Ivy League institution with the largest endowment in the nation, moving some $32 billion dollars into stocks and holdings that support clean energy has been met with resistance. In November, 72 percent of the Harvard undergraduate student body voted in favor of a resolution supporting divestment from fossil fuel companies.
Despite the overwhelming student support, university officials at Harvard are still unwilling to discuss the idea at this time. Kevin Galvin, a university spokesman, said,
“We always appreciate hearing from students about their viewpoints, but Harvard is not considering divesting from companies related to fossil fuels.”
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