April 6, 2016

Divestment Press Release

To all members of the Kalamazoo College community:

Earlier this week, the Kalamazoo College community received an email from President Wilson-Oyelaran outlining the Investment Committee’s final decision on a petition that the Divest/Reinvest campaign submitted in 2013, with over 500 signatures. In this email, the college decided it “would not divest from fossil fuels” and the “Investment Committee would continue to look for new fossil-free opportunities that align with the College’s long-term investment policies.” The President outlined the involvement of the Socially Responsible Investment Advisory Committee (SRIAC), which recommended that the school not divest fully from fossil fuels on the premise that such an action would violate a principle set forth by the Investment Committee of the Board. This principle states that “divestment cannot be expected to produce a long-term negative economic impact on the endowment or result in the material dismantling of commingled funds.”

Climate change is undeniably driven by the fossil fuel industry. Right now, our school invests 6.1%, or $11.6 million, of our endowment in this industry. This is the same industry that devastated communities along the Kalamazoo River six years ago via the largest tar sands spill in United States history. For the past three years, Divest/Reinvest Kalamazoo has stood by the 509 institutions that have taken their money out of these toxic industries. We will not congratulate an institution that thinks surface-level solutions like LED light bulbs or student audits of LEED certifications can equate to the change we need in order to support the community.

Divest/Reinvest Kalamazoo sees these as insufficient steps that allow for the bureaucracy of Kalamazoo to side-step real progress that is urgently demanded. President Wilson-Oyelaran highlights SRIAC as the scapegoat for the lack of real change. However, the Board of Trustees, Investment Committee, and the President herself have more than enough power to recognize that the needs, passions, and morals of the community and students are not reflected in these arbitrary and restrictive policies. Instead of enacting real change, President Wilson-Oyelaran decided to list small steps the college has taken to move Kalamazoo College forward at a pace that does not adequately address the challenges presented by the climate crisis. It is evident that there exists a lack of accountability from our President and Board of Trustees. Crisis demands bold and deliberate leadership, not negotiation over bureaucratic language and processes, mitigated by a few small steps.

It is our strong position that the Investment Committee must rewrite their guiding principles in order to allow for any type of divestment to occur. Until the fourth guiding principle is removed, the administration will hide behind this arbitrary stipulation and continue to refuse meaningful change. Our interests as students and the financial manifestation of those interests are forced to operate around arbitrary principles set forward by the Investment Committee. These guiding principles should operate around our needs as a campus, a community, and a world if we hope to truly invest in a socially responsible manner. 

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