Vassar Students Sit In Outside President’s Office to Demand Divestment from Fossil Fuels
Largest climate justice protest in Vassar College history
POUGHKEEPSIE, NY - Vassar College’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign began a peaceful sit-in this afternoon outside of the office of President Catharine Hill, calling on Vassar’s Board of Trustees to divest from direct holdings in fossil fuel companies and give students a meaningful voice in college affairs.
Vassar College’s divestment campaign is part of an international movement rallying universities, governments, and other endowed institutions to divest from fossil fuels. Their sit-in is happening in conjunction with numerous other divestment actions at colleges and universities across the country. This action is the biggest climate-related protest in Vassar’s history. Students will occupy the hallway for the week, with plans to escalate if their demands are not met.
“I joined the campaign when it started in my freshman year, and I’ve experienced first-hand how the administration continues to delay on this important issue. The international divestment campaign is a coordinated vote of no-confidence, shifting the discourse around our use of fossil fuels. Due to the fossil fuel industry’s overwhelming influence on politics we have to turn the political and social atmosphere against them before governments take action to transform our energy systems--just look at the success of the Keystone XL Pipeline protests.
“We cannot continue to fund our education with profits made from fossil fuel exploitation, which destroys communities and lives, not just the environment. How can Vassar claim to be a leader when it has so clearly fallen behind in the fight for climate justice?”, expressed Martin Man (Class of 2016), a senior in the Campaign.
Students are requesting that Vassar College divest from the 200 corporations that hold the largest coal, oil, and gas reserves and restructure its administration to empower the voices of its students, faculty and alumni. Vassar’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign has been pressuring the college to divest from fossil fuel companies since 2012. Representatives from the Board of Trustees continue to reject the campaign’s divestment proposal, and the full Board of Trustees has not been allowed to vote on the issue. This inaction continues despite overwhelming student support, as evidenced by a recent referendum on the Campaign’s proposal in which 91% of students voted in favor of divestment. The Campaign has also received faculty support, and over 130 alumnae/i spanning seven decades have signed its petition.
On April 20, the chair of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, issued a statement in support of the Campaign. The RBF divested from fossil fuels in 2014, and its endorsement is highly significant due to the Rockefeller family’s long association with Vassar College.
“The Vassar College Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign is playing an essential role in the growing movement among individuals, communities, and institutions to align their investments with their missions and values. My beloved grandmother Blanchette attended and adored Vassar, and the Rockefeller family is proud of our long relationship with the College.
“The Rockefeller Brothers Fund is grateful that young leaders have assumed a leadership role in fighting the climate change that endangers their future. We welcome the collaboration as we all seek to ensure a just, sustainable, and peaceful world.”
—Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, Chair and Trustee
Vassar College is embarking on a divestment campaign to withdraw endowment funds from investments in companies whose activities are deemed harmful to the environment and counter to the values the college seeks to promote. Specifically, we aim to divest from companies involved in hydrofracking, coal mining, and fossil fuel extraction, while at the same time pushing the college to invest in companies that are financially stable and environmentally sound. The campaign’s current tasks include researching exactly which companies Vassar is currently invested in and to what extent, garnering support from the student body, faculty, and alumni, and building towards our goal of Vassar’s publicly-announced divestment from twenty environmentally unsound companies by Spring 2013.