We write to commend and support the April 7, 2021, op-ed in the Record by Raymond Beltran ’24 entitled “Divestment: Where’s Williams?” That is an excellent question that has gone unresolved for too long.
Six years ago, Williams students overwhelmingly voted for fossil-fuel divestment, supported by hundreds of alums and over half of the College’s faculty. Demonstrations were organized, and student–alumni delegations met with College leadership. Yet the College president and trustees did not act in alignment with this clear call to divest from fossil fuels. Today, the College still refuses to make a commitment not to invest student and alum dollars in holdings that rapidly pump greenhouse gases into a warming world.
Since then, institutions and individuals have ditched fossil fuels from over $14.1 trillion in assets under management. Some of our peer institutions, such as Middlebury, Wesleyan, and now Amherst have made commitments to divest over the next decade. But Williams has failed to show the leadership expected of a school of its ranking, endowment, and professed values.
As alums, staff, and faculty who joined in that earlier effort, we remain disappointed that Williams to date has refused to make the ethical and financially prudent decision to divest.
The pandemic has made our country’s social and racial injustices glaringly obvious in its disproportionate impact on Black, Brown and Indigenous members of our national and world community. People of color and those from marginalized communities, in this country and in developing nations, also bear the worst impacts of the climate crisis, whether it’s from heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, other extreme weather, or economic disruption.
By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, Williams is contributing to these environmental and racial inequities. If Williams wants to come clean, it should make a commitment to stop directly enabling the industries that are the most egregious polluters.
In the face of the climate crisis, the opportunity for leadership on climate justice is ongoing, and we would take pride in Williams stepping up to that leadership.
Caroline Bruno, ’15
Gina Campoli, ’77
Larry Daloz, ’62
Mike Henry, ’04
Michael McGinn, ’82
Brian Murphy, ’67
Shanti Singham, Professor of History and Africana Studies
Gaye Symington, ’76
Jeff Thaler, ’74
Laura Winston, ’75
The Williams Endowment Initiative is a group of alums formed in 2013 to support the student movement for fossil-fuel divestment at Williams College. To view the other signatories of this letter please visit this link.