I wrote about Swarthmore College’s student movement, which is called Mountain Justice, earlier this year. Mountain Justice was the very first divestment movement (away from fossil fuel investments) in the United States. This dedicated, passionate group of kids has been requesting that their school divest from fossil fuel investments since 2010.
The man responsible for obstinately continuing to deny divestment is Gil Kemp, who even made my Wall of Shame.
Despite the Swarthmore Mountain Justice kids holding a 32 day peaceful “sit in” last April to protest their school administration’s continued resistance to divesting, AND despite the fact that the Swarthmore faculty voted to support the protestors demand for divestment, the University’s Board of Managers, led by Gil Kemp, has bizarrely chosen to continue fossil fuel investment.
I don’t know about anyone else, but my daughter is starting the application process for college admission. She’s getting lots of solicitations from the best schools in the country, including Swarthmore. She has decided, based on the absolutely ridiculous actions of the Swarthmore Board of Managers, that she will not apply to Swarthmore. In fact, she’s spreading the word amongst her friends who are also considering where to apply. Swarthmore just doesn’t reflect the values of conscientious, forward-thinking young people.
Now there’s a movement I can get behind…
There aren’t that many options left if your daughter is only considering schools that have divested from fossil fuels. If anything, the fact that Swarthmore’s wider community outside the Board of Managers (and many members on the Board too) have taken them to task on this reflects well on the community. A college/university like Swarthmore isn’t just its top decision-makers–it’s a big, messy collection of administrators, yes, but also faculty, students, and clerical, technical, and service staff. I owe a lot to the students, faculty, and others who taught me about activism and how and when to organize for an important cause.
I say this as a Swarthmore alum and current graduate student at Yale, where I’m a member of a graduate student union and am involved in labor/community organizing. Yale is much more than the official authorities of the Yale Corporation (who also refuse, despite student protests, to divest), and Swarthmore is more than its Board.
~Chris Geissler, Swarthmore ’13
Chris – I totally appreciate your message. I’d ask you to “swoop out” from your own personal experience and think about what Swarthmore might consider a future impact to it’s revenue stream, aka a decreased student body. My daughter didn’t give Swarthmore even a first thought. The solicitations came in, and the ONLY thing she knew of Swarthmore was what I’d written regarding their Board of Manager’s resistance to divestment. Ergo, she instantly wasn’t interested. The value of that a) admission by a potential student, and b) conveyance of that information is that the leadership at Swarthmore is going to see that they are behind the curve of social change, which is being led by their own students. This “shaming” is what can lead to a change in their behavior. Much like a single cell amoeba, the Board of Managers must FEEL the warm breath of a palpable threat for it to act in any kind of appropriate manner.
And that’s why I’m here. When it comes to fossil fuel usage, all of us have “blood on our hands,” simply because we have no other alternatives. Mountain Justice is invaluable in their passionate determination to make a difference.
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