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Divest Pomona Presents to Board of Trustees

Divest Pomona, a student organization advocating for fossil fuel divestment at_x000D_
Pomona College, presented to Pomona’s Board of_x000D_
Trustees at its Feb. 26 meeting. In_x000D_
their presentation, Meagan Tokunaga PO ’15, Eliza Burke PO ’18 and Minah Choi_x000D_
PO ’18 asked the Board to create a trustee committee for climate action and_x000D_
sustainability that would include faculty, trustees, students, staff and_x000D_
alumni and would make a recommendation to the board concerning climate_x000D_
change by December 2015.

In September 2013, the Board of_x000D_
Trustees decided not to divest after meeting with students from the 5C Divestment_x000D_
Campaign in March, primarily based on a report by the college’s_x000D_
investment consultant, Cambridge Associates, which estimated the cost of_x000D_
divestment at $6.6 million in spendable_x000D_
income per year. 

“We think that the issue and_x000D_
the movement has evolved enough since the Board last considered it that the_x000D_
issue should be considered by a committee that fully represents the community,”_x000D_
Tokunaga said. “This committee can work out some of the details of the_x000D_
different alternatives that exist.”

The Divest Pomona students are_x000D_
currently waiting to receive a response from the Board about their request for_x000D_
a new trustee committee.

“The_x000D_
creation of new standing committees of the Board requires an amendment to the bylaws of Pomona College, by a vote of the full Board,” wrote Teresa Shaw,_x000D_
secretary to the Board of Trustees, in an email to TSL.

Burke, Choi and_x000D_
Tokunaga said that many trustees responded positively to the_x000D_
presentation and seemed enthusiastic about the idea of creating a committee to_x000D_
discuss divestment and climate change.

“I thought it was very well done,” said Jeanne Buckley, chair of the Board of_x000D_
Trustees. “It was broadly fleshed out so that they gave a_x000D_
lot of potential ways to look at the issue of climate change, and so I think_x000D_
there are some things that we can certainly think about.”

According to Burke, Choi and_x000D_
Tokunaga, the trustees appreciated that the students acknowledged alternatives_x000D_
to full divestment, including on-campus and off-campus sustainability_x000D_
initiatives that could offset investments in fossil fuels.

“Two years ago, when [the 5C Divestment Campaign] presented, I guess it was really black and white, perfect divestment or_x000D_
nothing, and this year we decided to take a more nuanced approach to it,” Burke_x000D_
said. “I think [the trustees] really liked that because it showed that we_x000D_
understood that there are costs to full divestment and that we could find some_x000D_
way to make a compromise.”

In their presentation, the_x000D_
students mentioned ideas for reducing Pomona’s carbon footprint that were_x000D_
informally proposed by John Jurewitz, lecturer in economics at Pomona. These_x000D_
proposals included a student tax on carbon emissions and the purchase and_x000D_
retirement of California carbon emission allowances, which would force other_x000D_
industries to decrease their carbon emissions.

“Perfect_x000D_
100% divestment is probably expensive in terms of direct and indirect_x000D_
transactional costs alone,” wrote Donald Gould PO ’79, a Pitzer College trustee who has been at the forefront of Pitzer’s divestment efforts, in an email to TSL. “But the divestment decision for a college is not_x000D_
about perfect implementation. Rather, it’s a statement of intention and direction. Viewed that way, there is_x000D_
usually a divestment path that entails small and acceptable costs.”

Jurewitz suggested that_x000D_
Pomona’s commingled fund managers track the amount of dividends that come from_x000D_
fossil fuel companies and use those dividends to supplement sustainability_x000D_
projects on campus, invest in clean energy funds or buy offsets for on-campus_x000D_
carbon emissions.

“Trustees_x000D_
ought to be able to accommodate the divestment advocates relative to the ten percent of_x000D_
funds that are not invested in commingled funds,” Jurewitz said.

The Divest Pomona students_x000D_
hoped that the proposed trustee committee would consider options like those suggested_x000D_
by Jurewitz.

“We ideally want divestment,_x000D_
and we think that it’s the strongest method of climate action that we can_x000D_
take,” Burke said. “We don’t want to just do other sustainability initiatives_x000D_
because the isolated actions aren’t going to have a political effect like_x000D_
divestment will, but we want to make sure that [the trustees] know that we’re_x000D_
open to collaborating and that it’s going to be an ongoing process.”

Burke said that it would be_x000D_
helpful for the Board of Trustees to receive another financial analysis from_x000D_
Cambridge Associates.

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In_x000D_
an email to TSL, President David Oxtoby wrote,_x000D_
“We asked for a comprehensive review [of the financial impact of divestment] in_x000D_
2013 and I do not think a new review is necessary.”

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