50 signatures reached
To: Chairman Michael R. Eisenson, Investment Committee, and the Board of Trustees
Williams College: Go Fossil Free!
As members of the Williams College community, we want to express our support for a revised investment policy that would preclude all future direct investment of the College’s endowment in corporations engaged in the extraction and refinement of coal. As of 2012, the College holds no direct investments in the coal industry, and so the proposed revision poses little financial risk. However, this change is necessary to maintain the integrity of the College’s values and mission. While this is a meaningful step that demands immediate action, this is still only the first step towards a more substantive commitment to divestment from all fossil fuels.
A Williams education is designed to prepare students to meet the challenges of an ever-changing world. In 2007, when the Board approved the Mission and Purposes of the College, it stated: “No one can pretend to more than guess at what students now entering college will be called upon to comprehend in the decades ahead.” Although we cannot yet know the precise impacts climate change will have, we can be certain that Williams graduates will face profound consequences from our continued consumption of fossil fuels.
The College has demonstrated its commitment to environmental responsibility through the Zilkha Center’s sustainability initiatives and the work of the Center for Environmental Studies and affiliated departments, as well as by the personal actions of faculty, students, staff, administrators, alumni, and other members of the Williams community. The investment of the College’s endowment in fossil fuels contradicts this commitment.
Why is this important?
Across the country, led by students and prominent environmentalists, including Bill McKibben, the fossil fuel divestment movement is growing. Three nearby colleges have already committed to divestment: Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts; Unity College in Maine; and Sterling College in Vermont. Students are running strong fossil fuel divestment campaigns at more than 200 colleges and universities, including Amherst College, Middlebury College, Swarthmore College, Harvard University, Brown University, and Tufts University. At Amherst, just as at Williams, students, faculty, and alumni are calling for no new direct investments in coal. The Amherst Board of Trustees has expressed willingness to pursue coal divestment but would like to work in conjunction with another school. As our closest peers and rivals join the movement, it is time for Williams to follow suit or risk falling behind.
On November 16th, 2012, over 130 students and faculty turned out to help launch the student-organized coal divestment campaign. Numerous alumni have expressed their support for the campaign and are becoming more involved. As members of the Williams faculty, we join them to call for an investment policy that precludes direct investment in coal, a policy that is consistent with the Board’s assertion that “being itself privileged by its history and circumstances, Williams understands its own responsibility to contribute by thought and example to the world of higher education.” Williams is already a leader to its peers by providing an exemplary liberal arts education, and with this use of its institutional power, the College will affirm its commitment to leadership.