Fall 2012 Semester Wrap-up

Abby Togliatti:

There goes another semester of my college career flying by before my eyes. A great semester at that, possibly the best yet. So many amazing memories have been made, including kicking off the divestment campaign at Ithaca College. I can remember first hearing about divestment when Ren told myself and the rest of the Environmental Leadership and Actions Network e-board at the beginning of the semester about it. It wasn’t until later that I realized how huge divestment was becoming all across the nation, with the same campaign being run all over the place, even right next door at Cornell. Divestment honestly didn’t make much sense to me at first; it seemed pretty obscure and I wasn’t too sure if it was something that I wanted to be involved in. But now that I am, I cannot imagine what else I would be doing at my college.

Just as a reminder, in case you don’t know what divestment is, I’m here to inform you. A semester down, and I’m pretty confident about the concept of divestment, and what it means for our college and our nation. Ithaca College has an endowment of over $200 million, which is like their savings account. This money, which they get from tuition and donations, is invested into different companies in every aspect of the economy. The returns on these investments is how we pay for basically everything at Ithaca College, from the professors’ salaries to the A&E Center. Divestment is the deliberate removal of these investments from the fossil fuel industry.

As of right now, over 150 campuses across the nation are running divestment campaigns. Imagine the large-scale change we could make if all of these colleges and universities took their money out of the fossil fuel industry and invested instead into more environmentally and socially responsible companies! The fossil fuel industry, companies like Chevron, Duke Energy, Exxon Mobil, and Hess, would not have nearly as much power as they do now.

One question I hear a lot from people wanting to know more about divestment is: where else could we be investing? Many believe the myth that the fossil fuel industry is the only industry that is going to give high returns. This is simply not the case. I realize that high returns are important because essentially, higher returns mean Ithaca College can afford all that they have promised us as students. But there are many other industries in which Ithaca College can be investing that are going to give the same returns as the fossil fuel industry. A possible suggestion is the renewable energy industry, which is growing at a fast rate and is going to become an essential investment. It is important that colleges and universities support these companies instead, allowing them to grow and become prosperous.

Ithaca College preaches that they are environmentally friendly and responsible, yet our endowment does not reflect that promise. We have asked the administration to consider removing their investments from the fossil fuel industry, but I feel like they are not taking us as seriously as they should be. We have had meetings with President Tom Rochon, and representatives of the Board of Trustees who decide where we invest our money, but not much has come out of those meetings. They believe that removing our investments from the fossil fuel industry is going to be too difficult, so it is not something that they are avidly working towards. I want the administration to feel just as passionate about the divestment campaign as we are. I want them to be working towards this goal along side us. It is not going to be easy, but it is possible. It is going to require an open dialogue between the students and the administration to make sure that we are all getting what we want, but this dialogue is being cut off by the administration. I deserve to be heard and taken seriously.

As a student that is going to be attending IC for 6 years, I want to ensure that I am attending an institution that lives up to its standards, as well as my own. I have become so passionate about the divestment campaign over the past semester and all that it can bring for our future. It makes so much sense. This campaign is more than just the Environmental Leadership and Actions Network, it’s a coalition of other clubs, students, their parents, alumni, staff, and faculty. Look out for us next semester because this is a fight we are not going to give up on. We plan on getting more staff and alumni involved in this campaign, as well as reaching out to more students. So many people care about what we are doing and want Ithaca College to DIVEST from the fossil fuel industry. So, why haven’t we already?

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