A responsible first step

College Council (CC) recently passed a resolution supporting the College’s divestment from coal. We applaud CC for supporting this student-driven initiative. We at the Record support the pledge to continue to be conscious of where the College invests, and we encourage the trustees to follow CC’s recommendation.

Pledging not to invest in coal would not be a radical move. The College does not currently directly invest in coal, so divesting from coal would not require any substantial changes to the composition of the endowment’s investment strategy. However, if the trustees were to pledge not to invest in coal now and in the future, the College would be making a public statement on environmental concerns. The College is committed to a more sustainable future, and not investing in coal is an important step in that direction.

We are not the only school engaging with this issue. Other groups at NESCAC schools have taken up the cause of divestment, with Middlebury’s administration responding with particular strength to support student efforts. If the trustees were to pledge to avoid investing in coal, the College would be demonstrating its environmental commitment in concert with our peer institutions.

However, we should not be too self-congratulatory. Although this is an important step to take, it is also an expected one. It is worth noting that we are directly invested in fossil fuels, and that our outside investment portfolios, which are handled by investment firms, are invested in coal. Passing the resolution to divest from coal would not change those circumstances. However, the resolution does continue a trend of thinking critically about the College’s investments. One good reason for this pledge to pass is that it will prompt further conversation regarding sustainable investment. We recognize that there are significant problems with divesting from fossil fuels from a financial standpoint and because the College does not have significant control over our indirect investments. However, we do think that the trustees ought to be considering the future of the College’s investments, and the best way to make our endowment support a sustainable future.

This is a small change, but if the trustees approve it, it is a significant step for the College. It is important to note that this initiative came from students, as this represents another good example of CC supporting student interests. We hope that pledging to avoid coal investment will eventually lead to a trend of further divestment, where sustainability is important to our investment philosophy.