Reopening the dialogue

On this Tuesday, February 12, Ithaca College’s Board of Trustees will hold their semester meeting in New York City. In order to ensure that divestment is on the agenda, DivestIC members sent the following email to President Tom Rochon, Board Secretary Nancy Pringle, and Board Chair Tom Grape. Coalition members seek to reopen the collaborative dialogue from last semester in order to keep working together towards our ultimate goal of full divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

February 7, 2013

From: The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network
To: President Rochon, Nancy Pringle, and Tom Grape

Dear President Rochon, Ms. Pringle, and Mr. Grape,

The spring semester is always an exciting time, full of hope and the promise of new perspectives. We have all returned from our winter vacations refreshed and re-energized, ready to take on a new semester in a new year. We have spent time gathering our resolve to make positive changes in ourselves and in our communities, and it is with this mind-set that we are hoping to resume the conversation of divestment and remind you of your commitment that divestment will be an agenda item at next week’s Board of Trustees meeting in New York City.

New beginnings are not spontaneously occurring, and fresh starts normally require some sort of introduction. And so, as a matter of such, we would like to refresh your memory regarding where we have been, so we can recognize where we are, and re-invite you to help us set the pace for where we’re going.

This fall, when we launched the DivestIC campaign, we were one of thirty colleges with divestment campaigns on their campuses. There are now over two hundred and thirty colleges with student movements pushing for divestment. Of those two hundred and thirty, three have already committed to full divestment on a timeline. Additionally, the city governments of Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California have made plans to follow through on divestment. The momentum from the national movement for divestment from fossil fuels has been carried into our college community, and support and awareness are growing rapidly campus wide. As a community, we are realizing that divestment from the fossil fuel industry is critical to both the future of our planet and the future financial well-being of Ithaca College. We have been collaborating closely with alumni and parents, who are forming coalitions of their own to help us hold our college accountable to its values of leadership, excellence and sustainability. Since the beginning of our campaign, we have collected over eight hundred petition signatures from students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members. Our numbers are growing.

We hope you will keep these developments in mind as you move forward with the Board of Trustees meeting next week, with divestment on the agenda. We would like something in writing from the Board within a week of the meeting indicating that they understand the purpose and goals of our DivestIC campaign, including a commitment to divest from the attached list of sixteen companies by the end of this school year. We understand that the financial portfolio of Ithaca College’s investments is neither simple nor unchanging. However, with this in mind, we would like to remind you that these sixteen companies are the worst of the worst in the fossil fuel industry, including six companies involved in the extraction, refining, and export of natural gas, the fossil fuel that has the potential to single handedly bring down the livelihood of New York State through hydrofracking.

As DivestIC coalition members indicated in our comments for the Huron financial recommendations, the concept of fossil fuel divestment goes beyond just environmental impacts. Divestment is an imperative economic step for Ithaca College to take in order to ensure their financial continuity. In a recent report by HSBC titled, Oil and Carbon Revisited, the bank admitted to our dire need to decrease the consumption and burning of fossil fuels to stop the planet from warming 2°C (a temperature that would destroy our world’s coral reefs). HSBC wrote that coal consumption must be limited by 30% and oil by 12% by 2035. The report went on to say that in order for this to happen – because it must happen – divestment from the fossil fuel industry is a sound choice. Not just to maintain life as we know it on this planet, but because as consumption is decreased, stocks will suffer: “…the threat from lower prices would have an impact on all stocks, equivalent to 37-52% of market cap.” As fossil fuel stocks decrease, so would the return on IC’s investments.

Divestment is not a lofty, unrealistic goal; it is a dire step that we as a college need to take in order to continue building a sustainable, healthy world, and in order to allow Ithaca College to remain economically stable within a rapidly changing market. We are ambitious to resume collaborating with you to make divestment a reality for our college, and to hear back from the Board of Trustees by February 20th.

All the best,

The Environmental Leadership and Actions Network


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