At a special meeting of College of the Atlantic’s Board of Trustees on Monday, March 11, the trustees accepted a student proposal to divest the college from all fossil fuel-related investments. As of March 12, 2013, COA is fully divested according to a list of fossil fuel companies created by the organization 350.org.
“The elation on campus is palpable,” says COA President Darron Collins, PhD. “Without a doubt, our actions send a strong message—one we are following with a student-driven energy framework based on empowering our students to go out and make a difference in their communities and throughout this world.”
COA second-year student Lucas Burdick led the successful student campaign to divest, “This is an important step for COA,” he said. “Divesting from fossil fuels not only affirms the college’s founding environmental principles, it launches our more recent commitment to actively educate and empower young people to address the climate crisis.”
As of today, COA joins the “Go Fossil Free” movement organized by 350.org, and is no longer invested in the fossil-fuel-related companies appearing on its list of 200 such companies. The board resolution also charges the college’s investment committee to instruct its investment managers “to refrain from any further investments in companies on that list.”
Says Will Thorndike, chairman of the COA board of trustees and managing general partner of Housatonic Partners, “After due deliberation, the Board moved swiftly here on the basis of a very thorough presentation from the students. COA students understand the broader ramifications of their actions, and took those into account in their discussions with the board. I am immensely proud of them.”
The divestment campaign began just before the college’s January board meeting. It took one week, only, for the college to accept a provisional agreement to divest, but the resolution needed a vote by the board. This was slated to take place in April, but the administration decided to speed up the process.
In a blog post published at gofossilfree.org, Burdick wrote, “This college was born out of the United States environmental movement. From the onset, it was to be an ‘experimental college’ based on the precepts of social consciousness and ecological thinking. … We made the case that given the present climate crisis, divesting is morally and politically just and that it was present and future students of the college would want. We also made the argument that divesting was reinvesting and didn’t mean we had to lose any money, or raise anyone’s tuition.”
Concluded Burdick, “An amicable administration, thoughtful trustees, and good faith negotiations are seldom elements of the stories told by student organizers. What COA’s one week divestment campaign shows is that we are not demanding the impossible of our colleges. This is, in some respect, the least they can do, and we need to demand they do it.”
College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit http://www.coa.edu.