Divestment Campaign Protests Outside Trustee Meeting

Twenty-five black-clad students from the Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign laid down next to a homemade oil pipe at its latest action Feb. 14, creating Claremont’s first-ever human oil spill outside Pitzer College’s West Hall.

demonstration, along with speeches from campaign members, faculty members, and students,
was meant to bring attention to divestment in front of a 50-person crowd before Pitzer’s open Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 15.

are rallies all the time, but we wanted a way to draw both students in to
participate but also keep the eye of trustees and show we’re putting in
something a little unique to this,” campaign leader Jess
Grady-Benson PZ ’14 said.

semester, the Pitzer Board of Trustees deferred commitment to divestment and instead formed a working group to discuss Pitzer’s approach to climate
change. The Divestment Campaign members timed their Feb. 14 protest to coincide with the end of
the working group’s meeting.

addition to forming a human oil spill, campaign members gathered in a circle
and shouted reasons for divestment, including “It’s up to us
to change the world we live in,” “Pitzer College is supposed to be a leader in
sustainability,” and “There is no Planet B.”

campaign brought faculty members and students to speak at the action, including Pitzer
environmental analysis professor Paul Faulstich.

up for wildness, be patriots, embrace the land, accept responsibility, defend
nature, defend yourselves,” Faulstich said in his speech, which challenged
students to “use your anger and your joy to effect positive change.”

The action by the Divestment Campaign follows Pomona College’s decision this month to aim for carbon neutrality by 2030. Pomona announced in September that it will not divest its endowment from fossil fuel funds. 

Grady-Benson said that carbon neutrality is a noble goal, but that it
focuses on obtaining carbon offsets rather than on reducing the college’s actual energy consumption.

buying your way out of actual reductions in your own lifestyle change, and I
don’t believe that’s true action,” Grady-Benson said.

she added that “we really have moved away from the light switch/light bulb kinds of
tactics, and we’re getting into the heart of the stuff, the institutional level
changes, and that’s fantastic.”

said that despite Pomona’s decision, the group’s campaign at the 5Cs remains strong and committed not just to divestment, but to sustainable action in general.

think that coupling divestment with all of those actions is really important, and we fully support that,” she said. “It’s not just about divestment; it’s about
reinvestment—how we are investing here, how we act in the community at large.” 

Steinberg, a political science and environmental policy professor at Harvey Mudd College, also addressed the crowd. He urged Pitzer to follow through on

talk sustainability in the classroom, but when it comes to actually spending
dollars, we hesitate,” Steinberg said. “I think Pitzer has always taken a justifiable pride in
walking the walk, and not just talking the talk.”

“Divestment, as far as I’m concerned, is the answer,” he added.

To gain support for divestment outside of the Pitzer Boards of Trustees, the Divestment Campaign set up the Responsible Endowment Fund (REF) on Feb. 13. The REF is separate from the school’s other investments, so any money that parents, alumni, and donors give to it is not invested in the fossil fuel industry. 

According to its website, the Divestment Campaign will withhold the REF from the college administration until the school commits to divestment. If the school does not make this commitment by March 2015, the campaign will donate half the fund to environmental justice organizations in Southern California; the other half of the fund will be available to the college, provided that it can prove by March 2020 that it has divested.

hoping that it’s going to show the college the support that they have from
parents and previous students in divesting,” Divestment Campaign member Jesse Honig PZ ’16 said.

the end of the rally, campaign members presented Pitzer President Laura
Trombley with a Valentine’s Day card that read “Break up with fossil fuels,
divest now.”

received the valentine lightheartedly.

know on the behalf of the Board of Trustees, they want to thank you for the
conversations they have had,” she said to the crowd. “They have been illuminating and important, and
they look forward to working with you to bring about a positive end for the
college, for the country, and for our future.”

In addition to the REF, the Divestment Campaign has commissioned a short documentary from Margot Young PZ ’16 and Mikaela Joyce PZ ’16 that will be screened at the Board of Trustees meeting in May to encourage board members to vote for divestment. 

is also a very powerful medium for social change,” Young said. “I saw it as a perfect opportunity to try to make change within our local community and contribute to the campaign.” 

the speakers at the rally was Laurie Covarrubias PZ ’16, a New Resources student who
moved the crowd by reading a letter her 5-year-old son wrote about addressing environmental problems and opposing companies that negatively impact the environment.

you have 5-year-olds who are being warriors for the seventh generation
and we have the support of the older people who are doing this today, it really
gives us hope, and I think that this is a really powerful statement,”
Covarrubias said.

Pitzer anthropology and history professor Dan
Segal urged the Divestment Campaign members to keep pushing to make their voices heard.

is crucial for making our task force work is that simultaneously on the outside
you are continuing to speak, because inside institutions work, established
institutions work, when they hear the voice of the people,” he said.

Grady-Benson said that the Divestment Campaign
will continue to move forward.

“It takes more guts, it’s more controversial
as many speakers said today, and that’s what makes it a really great tactic,”
Grady-Benson said. “We’ve
been campaigning for over a year, and it’s time to take the leap.”

This article has been updated to reflect that the protesters did not roll out of the homemade oil pipe, but rather laid down next to it.

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