Dear Carleton:

(This letter was recently sent from a Carleton alumnus to President Poskanser, regarding his decision to withhold donations to Carleton until the Board of Trustees votes to divest from fossil fuels.  Instead, as he notes, he is contributing to the Carleton College Fossil Free Fund.  He has given us permission to share his letter so that others can consider taking this action and sending similar communication.)

Dear Alumni Office and President Poskanzer,

I am writing to inform you that I have ceased donating to Carleton until the college pledges to divest its endowment from fossil fuel holdings. I would therefore like to inform you that I have just donated to the Carleton College Fossil Free Fund. I intend to continue donating to this fund until Carleton divests, at which point my prior donations will be available to the college, and I will be pleased to resume donating directly.
Climate change is the great moral crisis of the century. Hundreds of colleges/universities, cities, religious institutions, and foundations around the world are awakening to the realization that fossil fuel companies not only have a business plan that is reckless, but they are also using their political power to deceive the public and block meaningful action. We will look back on this period in much the same way we do the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa. Carleton stands for so much that is right in the world, and it has taught so many to think critically, rather than passively accepting the status quo. I do not want to see Carleton standing on the wrong side of history any longer.
I was a member of the college’s Environmental Advisory Committee as a student, and I know about all of the great things that are being done to make the campus more carbon-neutral and environmentally-friendly. These are commendable measures that should continue, but they are in no way an excuse for refusing divestment. The social license that Carleton provides to fossil fuel companies through its investments do far more damage than our wind turbines or composting program could ever offset. Avoiding divestment by not wanting to be too “political” is simply not a honest position. When you are investing in and profiting from companies that are fueling disinformation and obstruction, that is in itself a political act — and one that Carleton should not be proud of. And if the intention of continuing investment is to maintain a voice a shareholder, one need only to look at the example of the the first family of oil, the Rockefellers, which tried and failed for years to get Exxon to take climate change seriously — before choosing to divest.
There is no tweaking around the edges that can make fossil fuel companies responsible actors worthy of investment; their basic business plan is incompatible with a safe climate and stable society. Simply put, wrecking the planet is wrong, and it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.
I look forward to the day when I can continue to donate to my beloved alma mater. I am absolutely certain you will find overwhelming support and praise when you choose to do what is right.
Ben Cushing
Class of 2012

Op-Ed Letters in The Carletonian Lay Out Reasons for Divestment

A member of the Board of Trustees responded recently to CRIC (Carleton Responsible Investment Committee) that the Board is concerned about involving itself in “political” actions.  The Carletonian invited Op-Ed responses — and got them in spades.  Check out these great articles, which cover a wide range of perspectives on whether divestment is political and whether that matters.

Carleton Faculty letter supporting divestment from fossil fuels

Our Carleton faculty have written the attached letter to the administration and the Board of Trustees, supporting divestment from fossil fuels: “The business model of the fossil fuels industry is on a collision course with the life of the planet.  We cannot in good conscience stay invested in this industry.”  As of today, the letter has 69 signators, and growing.  We are so grateful to our professors for taking this important step.

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Rolling Stone gets on board with divestment

Rolling Stone.  Ostensibly an entertainment magazine, they were the home of political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson and PJ O’Rourke.  It has covered the abduction of Patty Hearst; interviewed Daniel Ellsberg and Desmond Tutu; and covered the war on Afghanistan.  And now the Rolling Stone turns its attention to fossil fuel divestment and lays out the argument for why it is the logical thing to do.

Carleton Faculty send an open letter to the administration

Today, over 60 (with more signing every hour, it’s hard to print a firm number) faculty members signed and sent an open letter to the administration and the Board of Trustees calling for divestment from fossil fuels.  You can read the full text of the letter here.

Coverage in The Carletonian is anticipated with the first issue of Winter Term next week.

Endowment Investments in Fossil Fuels


$780 MILLION is the approximate total value of Carleton’s Endowment as of May 2014. This total ranks Carleton just outside the top 100 colleges and universities. This total is managed by outside managers hired by the college. No social or environmental “screens” are applied to these funds, but investment manager behavior and ethics are taken into account. This total can be divided into two broad categories: commingled funds or partnerships and direct holdings.

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Commencement remarks of Dr. David Loy, ’69: Working for divestment, and creating good karma

First, thanks to Professor Jackson for his kind words, and to the college for this truly unexpected honor [an honorary doctoral degree].  The last time I was on campus was for my own graduation back in 1969, which was special for a very different reason.  At that time the Vietnam War was at its height, and graduation meant the end of draft deferments for men, which meant we were eligible to be drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam.  A few months earlier, however, two other seniors (Harold Henderson and Paul Smith) and I had decided (after much discussion and soul-searching) that the Vietnam War was immoral, illegal, and just plain stupid, and that we would refuse to cooperate.  So we sent our draft cards back to our local boards, and after graduation I worked with the Draft Resistance movement in San Francisco, while waiting for an induction notice that I would refuse, which would probably lead to a felony conviction and a few years in federal prison. But just a couple weeks before that would have happened, the Selective Service changed their method of selection into a lottery according to birthday, and ironically all three of us had low numbers, so none of us was ever drafted.

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President Poskanzer’s response

June 13, 2014


Mr. Brett A. Smith

Minneapolis, MN 55419


Dear Brett (if I may):

I appreciate that you took the time to share your views with me in your letter of May 8 and I respect that your sentiments about dívestment from all fossil fuel-related stocks are shared by some other members of the College community.

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An alumnus writes to President Poskanzer

May 8, 2014


President Steven Poskanzer

Carleton College

One North College Street

Northfield, MN 55057


Dear President Poskanzer:


As a Carleton alumnus from the class of 1964 preparing to attend my 50 year reunion next month, I want to express my appreciation for your leadership in making Carleton a greener campus and in taking seriously the responsibility to reduce the carbon footprint associated with campus activities. Carleton’s membership in the College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and its development and implementation of a Climate Action Plan are steps that make me proud to be a Carleton alum.

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