MHCJC Condemns the Board of Trustees’ Vote

The Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition (MHCJC) is not surprised by the Board of Trustees’ decision to remain invested in fossil fuels. After four years, the Board has finally voted, but has failed to reflect the overwhelmingly clear desires of the Mount Holyoke community. Mount Holyoke should continue funding sustainable initiatives on campus, but these initiatives cannot be funded with the profits of environmental injustice. If we understand that destroying the planet is wrong, then we cannot profit from our planet’s continual destruction. MHCJC condemns the Board’s vote. Rejection denied.

The Board Failed to Prove That Divestment Would Hurt the Endowment

The Board has failed to prove that fossil free investment portfolios perform worse than fossil fuel portfolios. Time and time again the Board argues they “feel” that divestment will hurt the College’s returns. On April 13, 2017, members of MHCJC, faculty, and SGA met with President Sonya Stephens to discuss the Board’s vote. We asked President Stephens for portfolios and investment reports documenting how divestment would hurt Mount Holyoke’s endowment. We received no response and no follow-up after the meeting.

In fact, in spring 2016, Cambridge Associates, Mount Holyoke’s endowment manager, presented reports to the Faculty Ad-Hoc Committee showing that fossil free funds performed the same as funds invested in fossil fuels. MHCJC has also presented the Board with various studies and reports that substantiate the our argument.

How and Why Divestment Will Not Hurt Financial Aid

Committing to fossil fuel divestment would require MHC to liquidate $337 million, nearly half of the $691 million commingled1 endowment. The “liquidated”2 endowment value would not disappear. Instead, the value would be reinvested in fossil free funds. If MHC commits to full divestment, investment managers would remove the money exposed to fossil fuels and reinvest in it in fossil free funds.  

Ultimately, MHCJC asks that the Board commit to divestment over a 5 year period, allowing our fund managers to leave fossil fuel funds as our contracts expire and reinvest that money when it is more financially lucrative to do so. We are not asking the College to divest overnight and lose a significant amount of money. Our investment managers work for us: it is their job to make sure our endowment continues to perform well after divestment.

The Board of Trustees threatens to reduce student financial aid and faculty salaries. However, every year the Board of Trustees designates how money to give to student financial aid and faculty salaries. Therefore, the Board of Trustees is the only group responsible for a decision to reduce aid in the event of divestment losses.

Moving Forward

Let’s not let this moment completely distract us. This vote is progress. A vote means that our campaign is able to escalate, it puts the Board of Trustees, unanimously, in direct contrast to the interests of CJC, the faculty, and the student body. This vote is completely opposed to the values that the student body, student government, and faculty who voted in support of fossil fuel divestment. When people in power start telling you “no”, that’s how you know you’re onto something. Take the anger that comes with this disappointing decision and show up, speak up, and disrupt. Lead with us.

1. Mount Holyoke’s endowment is completely invested in commingled funds. Commingled funds are funds made of multiple assets, some of which are fossil fuel assets. If a commingled fund contains any trace of fossil fuel assets, the fund is considered to be “exposed to fossil fuels.”
2. The Board’s use of the word liquidation implies that MHC would sell current funds and then reinvest that money in other funds. MHC will not lose half of its endowment value if we divest. Liquidation is not about losing money; it is about moving it.

MHC Senate Votes in Support of Fossil Fuel Divestment

On February 21st, Mount Holyoke Senate voted in support of the Climate Justice Coalition Statement on divesting MHC’s endowment from fossil fuels. CJC presented at Senate last week to inform them of the Mount Holyoke campaign history, the drive behind fossil fuel divestment, and the financial aspect of divestment. The Senate was presented with two statements: the CJC statement, which stipulates a 5 year timeline in which MHC must divest, and the ad hoc committee statement, which asks MHC to divest with no specific timeline. They voted in favor of one of the statements, in favor of neither, or abstained from the vote. 95% of all senators were present for the vote.

The ad hoc committee was formed last year to review divestment and put together a statement in favor or against the issue. The statement supports divestment and it was given to the Board of Trustees for review last May. Below are the Senate vote results and statements:

Senate Vote on FF Divest

Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition Statement

1. Immediately freeze new investments in the top two hundred publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

2. Remove investments (divest) from these companies over the course of five years.

3. Reinvest in socially responsible and sustainable alternatives.

Ad hoc Committee on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Mount Holyoke College acknowledges that the threat of global warming from continued use of fossil fuels poses serious environmental concerns. Fundamentally, the issue is one of social justice as climate change will have its most deleterious effects on peoples and countries that are least responsible for creating the problem. We recognize that the world must find a way to keep most of the remaining fossil fuel resources in the ground. This requires significant changes in investment strategies and political thinking. The status quo is no longer an acceptable moral option.

Therefore, Mount Holyoke College pledges to gradually withdraw its endowment from fossil fuels as appropriate investment instruments become available. We call upon all institutions of higher learning to join us in this effort. Our leaders in Washington, our investment fund managers, and indeed, financial and governing institutions globally, must be encouraged to find a new paradigm regarding energy and a sustainable future. Mount Holyoke College is committed to this future. 

If you would like to learn more about our campaign to divest Mount Holyoke’s endowment of fossil fuels, check out our article in Mount Holyoke Radix, our Facebook page, or email us at!

Mount Holyoke’s Convenient Conviction – A History of Divestment Decisions


[image: Mount Holyoke students holding signs at a protest calling for divestment from South African apartheid in 1985. Signs read: “We want no part of profits from South Africa! Our community votes No! MHC Divest Now!” and “MHC oppose apartheid”]

This Thursday, February 23, 2017, the Board of Trustees will be meeting for the second time this academic year. The Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition requested to know whether the Board would be discussing fossil fuel divestment, but we were told that the Board prefers not to inform students of what will be discussed at the meeting beforehand. This lack of transparency is nothing new to our campaign or the student body at large.

In 1985, the Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees voted to divest Mount Holyoke’s endowment from South African stock in order to protest apartheid. The Board of Trustees made their decision after years of relentless organizing by students, including former President Lynn Pasquerella, class of 1980. By deciding to divest, the Board of Trustees agreed with students that investments are political acts with real consequences. It set an influential precedent by publicly acknowledging the ethics bound in our endowment. The act of divesting intrinsically politicized the College’s endowment and its investments.

On April 6, 2015, five members of the Climate Justice Coalition (CJC) – Daphne Chang ‘16, Kayla Smith ‘16, Julia Worcester ‘17, Raven Geiger ‘17, and Shannon Paton ‘18 – met with President Pasquerella, members of the Investment Committee, and representatives from Cambridge Associates, an external group that manages the College’s endowment. The purpose of this meeting was to learn more about the significance of the endowment and the College’s investments in relation to the financial health of the institution.

At this meeting, members of the Investment Committee – including Committee Chair Elizabeth A. Palmer ‘76 – told us that Mount Holyoke College reinvested our endowment in South African apartheid in 1991. We were told that on September 16, 1991 the Investment Committee sent a memo to the Board and Finance Committee outlining the financial damage that divestment from apartheid had done to the College’s endowment. According to the College’s investors who compared Mount Holyoke’s endowment with a hypothetical portfolio including stocks in South Africa, the endowment reportedly lost $5.4 million in “opportunity cost” throughout the period of divestment. To our knowledge, the Board made the choice to reinvest without consulting or informing the many factions of the Mount Holyoke community who fought for divestment in the first place. Ultimately, the decision occurred after a period of six years – after the student activists who fought for divestment graduated. As of 1991, the violently racist South African apartheid regime was still in power, so a reinvestment decision reflects a support of these racist beliefs by the Board of Trustees.*

In their presentation at our meeting, the members of the Investment Committee referenced reinvestment in apartheid in order to demonstrate to us the financial risks of divestment in general and in regards to current discussions on fossil fuel divestment. According to Kayla Smith ‘16, who was in attendance, “not only was it revealed that Mount Holyoke’s endowment was reinvested in the apartheid regime after their much-celebrated divestment, but that the Board members spoke as though they regretted divesting in the first place by citing the amount of money lost.”

The presenter did not seem to understand that reinvestment, if it did in fact occur, was not simply a financial decision – it was also a political and moral one.

“Now that the issue of divestment has been raised, there is no choice that can be made that is not political. To divest means that the College will make a political decision to oppose publicly the economic decisions it regards as destructive. To not divest means that the College will make a political decision that economic returns are more important that opposing those destructive activities… The question for the College is which decision is most consistent with its mission and values,” to quote Professor of International Politics, Emeritus Vinnie Ferraro in a statement he wrote exploring the parallels between Mount Holyoke’s apartheid and fossil fuel divestment campaigns.

CJC members have since attempted to confirm whether Mount Holyoke College actually reinvested its endowment in companies supporting South African apartheid. Unfortunately, our members have been unable to access the Board’s official meeting records that would confirm what we were told during the April 2015 meeting. The Board of Trustees has an obligation to all students to come forward with clarification and an explanation.

The entire Mount Holyoke community was reminded of the Board’s lack of direct transparency last March 7th, 2016, when we were notified of a $2,560 tuition increase through only two sentences buried in the sixteenth line of a fifty-nine line, eleven paragraph email. As long as the Board continues to prevent the students, faculty, and alumnae of the College from accessing financial decisions in a timely and accessible manner, there will not be sufficient accountability, transparency, and assurance that the Board won’t make unethical financial choices in the future.

“Fiduciary responsibility does not preclude ethical choices.” Professor Ferraro shares our sentiment in this statement. The moral implications of apartheid reinvestment are unconscionable. Choosing to remain invested in the industry that is primarily responsible for potentially catastrophic climate change—which disproportionately impacts women, children, and minorities—aligns ourselves with fossil fuels and is reprehensible. Mount Holyoke needs to refrain from repeating its collapse of conviction by acknowledging the global impact of our investments and realigning them to fit the College’s mission.

Regardless of the Investment Committee’s prioritization of profit over morals, our investments remain political. The flows of capital overlay and constitute violent systems of power. Now is the time for Mount Holyoke College to be the “changemakers” we claim to be, to make another moral decision, and to proudly stand on the right side of history without wavering. In the case of climate change, the consequences are dire, complex, and difficult to overcome. When the Board of Trustees votes to divest from fossil fuels, our community must keep the College accountable to ensure that reinvestment does not reoccur.


*The original published version of this article did not include explicit commentary on the violently racist practices of the apartheid regime. We have edited the piece to more accurately reflect our moral stance. For more information on South African apartheid, visit: x and x (warning: potentially graphic and disturbing descriptions and images of anti-black violence).

Post-Election Statement – Climate Justice Coalition

Fuck Donald Trump.

As individuals and as an org, the Climate Justice Coalition is frightened on behalf of our lives, the lives of people we love, and for our work for climate justice. This is not business as usual, and we should never let it become normal. Everything Trump stands for ultimately endangers all of us.

We stand in solidarity with those most marginalized and endangered by a Trump presidency –  undocumented immigrants, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, Muslims and people of other marginalized faith groups, disabled people, mentally ill people, low-income people, and women. Trump’s rhetoric is unacceptable, and has legitimized a spree of hate crimes in the last two weeks. The hate he draws on existed in America long before this campaign, and dates back to the very founding of this country upon slavery and the genocide of Native peoples.

We also stand with the environment. Throughout Trump’s presidential campaign, he made it very clear that he will destroy everything that climate justice activists and environmentalists have worked hard to accomplish in the last 20 years. He has said he intends to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and most recently has appointed a climate change denier to head the EPA. The EPA and the Clean Power Plan might be flawed, but having them is better than not having anything. He also supports the expansion of coal mining and natural gas fracking in the United States. His policies will expand fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Dakota access pipeline and the KXL pipeline, and move us further away from climate justice.

Despite Trump’s orange appearance, he is not in support of divestment. Trump and his advisors are also working hard to have the United States withdraw from the historic (if flawed) Paris Climate Agreement. The rules of the Agreement make it difficult for countries to withdraw before 2020, but Trump is looking for other ways to avoid these (nonbinding) commitments, such as removing the United States from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the United Nations itself.

We will continue to fight hard for intersectional climate justice. We call on Mount Holyoke College, as a progressive institution, to do the same.


Solidarity forever,

The Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition

Take care of yourselves and look after each other! Here is a cute polar bear!


[image description: smol polar bear licking snow]


The Climate Justice Coalition Stands With Standing Rock

The Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition stands in solidarity with those fighting for justice at Standing Rock. As an organization that works for intersectional climate justice, this is not an issue that we can ‘choose’ to take a stand on – it is a cause inherent to our mission. What is occurring at Standing Rock is the product of 500 years of colonialism and violence against Native peoples, and represents the valuation of fossil fuels over native lives by the United States Empire.

The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline is the direct result of increased financial investments in the fossil fuel industry. Although the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure should have been halted in 2010 in order to avoid climate catastrophe, continued investments in the industry allow the burning of fossil fuels to continue. Mount Holyoke College’s continued investments in fossil fuel companies directly supports the industry’s actions regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline and countless other fossil fuel infrastructure projects. The Climate Justice Coalition advocates for fossil fuel divestment in order to denounce the actions of these companies. By stigmatizing the industry through divestment, fossil fuel companies will have less control over the economy and political system, preventing them from exercising their power over marginalized communities.

The Dakota Access Pipeline is proposed to transport 450,000 barrels of ‘light sweet crude oil’ from the Bakken Fields of North Dakota for 1,172 miles to Patoka, Illinois. On its route, the pipeline will cross over the Ogallala Aquifer (one of the largest aquifers in the world), and under the Missouri River (the longest river in the United States). The pipeline is slated to be ready for service by January 1, 2017. Historically, crude oil pipelines are susceptible to explosions, which can sometimes be deadly. The Dakota Access Pipeline was rerouted away from Bismarck, North Dakota, which is a primarily white city. Instead, it now passes directly through sacred Native land.

First and foremost, this is a struggle about Native American liberation, self-determination, sovereignty, and survival. The #NoDAPL fight is a continuation of 500 years of colonial and neocolonial history on Turtle Island. Since European settlers first arrived on this continent, Native peoples have faced campaigns of assimilation, cultural erasure, and genocide. The United States government has continuously violated Treaties and taken land. This is not history; it continues today. The latest example of these human rights violations is the work of Energy Transfer Partners and countless banks and financial institutions funding the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as law enforcement and politicians in North Dakota to construct a dangerous and destructive infrastructure project that is in violation of Treaty agreements.

We #StandWithStandingRock. We call on the Mount Holyoke community to #StandWithStandingRock. If you would like to know more about #NoDAPL, we recommend reading the articles we have listed below, as well as the official Standing Rock Syllabus. The Standing Rock Camp is preparing for a harsh North Dakota winter and they need donations and supplies. In addition to and beyond that, we need to decolonize every aspect of our lives: our education system, our workplaces, our food, and our energy. This is a fight for all of us. We demand a sustainable future for all of us. We continue to resist the expansion of the fossil fuel economy and we will support the Standing Rock resistance until the Dakota Access Pipeline is terminated.

#NoDAPL #WaterisLife #StandWithStandingRock #Solidarity #StandingRockSiouxTribe

Useful Articles About Standing Rock

Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition By The Numbers

Years active: 4

Hours of work: 500+

Number of MHC students who voted yes to divest from fossil fuels (in 2014 student referendum): 1,049

Percent of the faculty who support divestment: 92

Percent of the Mount Holyoke Senate in support of the CJC statement for divestment: 84% (93% of senators were present for the vote)

Number of teach-ins organized: 3

Number of organizing retreats and trainings: 12

Number of meeting locations over 4 years: 3 (you can now find us in the Mead Common Room on Thursdays at 8 pm!)

Number of student orgs with whom we have collaborated: 9

Number of coalitions/partnerships (with groups like the Seven Sisters Coalition for Fossil Fuel Divestment and the Responsible Endowments Coalition): 9

Number of banners painted and signs made: 5 and countless

Number of articles in on- and off-campus media about divestment at Mount Holyoke: 5+

Number of large protests attended: 6 (including Forward on Climate and the People’s Climate March)

Number of miles walked in climate protests: 100+

Number of CJC organizers arrested at XL Dissent: 6

Number of recent alumnae who were core campaign organizers when they were students: 10

Number of Google Hangout calls over 3 summers: ~52

Number of Facebook likes: 1,076

Number of Twitter followers (follow us!): 291

Number of Tumblrs (follow us here too!): 1

Number of WordPress websites (you’re here!): 1

Number of Mount Holyoke events where the incredible Naomi Klein spoke and endorsed the Mount Holyoke Climate Justice Coalition: 1

Number of meetings with administrators and trustees: 7

Number of trustees spoken to personally about fossil fuel divestment: 7

Number of meetings with the Board of Trustees Investment Committee at the headquarters of Barclays in Manhattan: 1

Number of meetings with financial advisors from Cambridge Associates (the company that manages Mount Holyoke’s endowment): 1

Number of MHC trustees working for the fossil fuel industry: (at least) 1

Years in a row CJC has been denied access to the May meeting of the Board of Trustees: 2

Hours of sleep lost worrying about climate change and the fact that Mount Holyoke still has not divested: countless

Love felt while working with inspiring human beings and deepening our analysis of the systemic injustices related to climate change: infinite

If you would like to learn more about our campaign to divest Mount Holyoke’s endowment of fossil fuels, check out our article in Mount Holyoke Radix, our Facebook page, or email us at!