Pitzer Becomes the First Major College to Divest from Fossil Fuels
What’s one way to help take down the oil industry? Stop investing in it! With a $125 million endowment, Pitzer College becomes the largest, most prominent college to commit to yanking its money from fossil fuel investments. Initiated by a group of concerned students, the campaign brought together students, staff and faculty to convince the Pitzer’s trustees to change its investment strategies.
Though students described Pitzer’s trustees as “resistant” to the idea of divestment at first, the board soon saw the value in the decision and agreed to make greater changes than the action group even thought would be realistic going into the campaign.
“In order to align our actions with our values, it made sense not to be seeking to profit from fossil-fuel exploration, extraction, and sale,” said Donald Gould, one of the school’s trustees. He added that he didn’t believe that Pitzer would lose out on too much money by investing the money elsewhere.
Currently, $5.4 million of Pitzer’s endowment is invested in the fossil fuel industry. The college plans to sell all but one million of that amount before 2015, with the remaining million to be eradicated in the months to follow.
Equally as impressively, the school is also recommitting itself to improve its own environmental efforts. In an effort to prove that environmentalism goes well beyond how you invest, the Pitzer College community set a goal to reduce its own carbon footprint by 25 percent within the next year and a half.
Laura Skandera Trombley, President of Pitzer College, called the decisions the “logical next step” for her college. “We are an institution that is socially progressive and we have been since our founding,” she said. “We have also been one that is dedicated to sustainability.”
Indeed, Pitzer, one of the first schools in the country to offer an Environmental Studies major, has already established a reputation as an eco-conscious school. Named the “Greenest Campus” in America, Pitzer has constructed dorms meeting the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest standards, instituted farm-to-fork policies in its dining hall, and slashed its water usage in half in the past decade alone thanks to drought-tolerant landscaping.
“This innovative plan is an investment in our shared future, in the young adults who arrive on our campus each fall and the world they will inherit,” said President Trombley. She challenged other higher learning institutions to divest, as well. “Come join the party! It’s so much fun to do the right thing.”
Pitzer joins ten other colleges in committing to divesting from fossil fuels:
- Hampshire College
- San Francisco State University
- Green Mountain College
- Prescott College
- Unity College
- Sterling College
- College of the Atlantic
- Naropa University
- Peralta Community College
- Foothill-De Anza Community College
Of the eleven universities saying goodbye to oil industry investments, however, Pitzer College by far has the largest endowment, hopefully inspiring fellow prominent institutions to go down the same path. Although dozens of other schools have attempted similar campaigns, their boards of trustees generally block these changes for financial reasons.
Just last year, Pitzer College’s own neighbor Pomona College declined to divest because they feared losing hundreds of millions in the long term.