by Abby Togliatti
For the past year I have been working on the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Ithaca College. The main purpose of this campaign is to divest Ithaca College’s endowment out of the fossil fuel industry (read blogs below to learn more). Most people see this movement as a purely environmental campaign, but to me it is so much bigger than that. It is a social movement, requiring institutions to recognize the way in which their money perpetuates inequalities and inequities of all kinds. The endowment at Ithaca College is our money. It does not belong to specific individuals and those individuals should not be the only ones dictating where our money goes. Yet this is the process that occurs at every college across the nation.
For the past year we have had on and off conversation with members of the administration and Board of Trustee members. Most of these correspondences have ended in some way of trying to silence us, trying to push us aside, trying to tell us that divestment from fossil fuels is not a priority at Ithaca College. The most recent communication we have had with the administration was with Nancy Pringle, Secretary and General Counsel to the Board, telling us that we will not be presenting about divestment at the BOT meeting this upcoming fall (this was one of our requests at the rally this past spring), but offering us a meeting with Thomas Grape, the Chairman of the Board, as long as we have “new” information to share.
How can Ithaca College possibly commit to sustainable and socially responsible practices if they are directly supporting industries that cause environmental and social injustices? How can Ithaca College disregard student, alumni, staff and community member action against their contradictions as a college? How can Ithaca College, an institution of higher learning, discourage the changes we are trying to make for the better?
By offering us this meeting with Thomas Grape, the administration is not opening up an ongoing dialogue with us. Alternatively, I feel as if their offer is more of a way to silence us. If we give you this meeting, we are giving you what you want, you will be happy and leave us alone. But it is NOT enough! You are not going to silence us! I am not happy! I want more from the administration. I want all administrators and Board members to feel just as passionately as I do about divestment from fossil fuels. But the way in which the administration is talking to us and not with us is inhibiting the progress we are trying to achieve with the divestment campaign here at Ithaca College. I want to be working on this nationwide strategy to make the world we live in a better place alongside those in power, not against them.