It appears the protests are having an effect—according to an email sent out by the Barnard Board of Trustees, the college has agreed to consider divesting from fossil fuels; the Investment Committee will look at other options. Representatives of Divest Barnard are invited to the next meeting of the committee in December to further discuss the issue, although no promises or concrete plans appear to have been made yet.
Dear members of the Barnard community,
Over the past few months members of the senior administration have been hearing from students concerned about Barnard’s investment in fossil fuels. We have been pleased to engage with the student group Divest Barnard on several occasions, and have also facilitated meetings between students and the leadership of Investure, the investment firm that manages Barnard’s endowment, as well as those of thirteen other colleges and non-profit organizations.
At the meeting of the College’s Board of Trustees last week, the Investment Committee agreed to discuss the issue of investment in fossil fuels, and to educate itself further on whatever options might be available for engaging in more sustainable investment practices. This was the first opportunity that the Investment Committee had to formally review the topic. The two student representatives to the Board of Trustees also described fossil fuel divestment as an important issue to students during their presentation to the full Board at its plenary session.
The Board of Trustees recognizes that climate change is a critical issue and it understands how seriously students are about moving our investments away from fossil fuels. At the same time the Board has a responsibility to ensure that the endowment continues to grow, so that the institution’s financial resources are available to advance the mission of the College today and into the future. The Board recognizes, therefore, that any discussion of divestment must be considered in this context, and will inevitably involve a complicated consideration of financial, operational, and strategic trade-offs. Many of our peer institutions are wrestling with the same challenges.
The Board expressed a strong desire to continue to engage with student advocates for divestment in the coming weeks and months. To that end, the Board’s Investment Committee will invite representatives of Divest Barnard to its next meeting in December to discuss the issue of divestment. The Board also authorized the College to share Barnard’s Investment Policy Statement as a way of continuing the dialogue.
There are no easy answers here. Divestment is a complex issue that touches on the interests of all members of the Barnard community. With this in mind, the Board of Trustees and the senior administration are committed to working through the issues, challenges, and opportunities in a deliberate and thoughtful way. The Board looks forward to continuing its engagement with students and other members of the Barnard community in the weeks and months ahead.
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Fueling Fossilized Systems via Shutterstock