Divest Carleton alumni letter to President Byerly and Carleton Trustees

April 27, 2022 

Dear President Byerly and Carleton Trustees: 

As the alumni of Divest Carleton, we echo the support for an official Carleton plan for fossil fuel divestment expressed by Divest Carleton students and the Carleton Responsible Investment Committee (CRIC). Below are our additional thoughts on how the College might implement such a plan and why we believe fossil fuel divestment is in Carleton’s best interest and aligns with its values. 

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BIG NEWS! Carleton Board to consider divestment this May. PLEASE TAKE ACTION!

Carleton’s Board of Trustees meets May 12-14, and for the first time in many years, divesting Carleton’s endowment from fossil fuels is on the agenda. Divest Carleton needs your help to demonstrate the broad support this issue has from alumni and students.

We’re asking divestment supporters to send an email (or letter, if you can) to key decision makers in advance of the meeting. Your personal, heartfelt message is the most effective way to show the Board that Carleton has prepared us to “lead lives of learning” and “to be of service to humanity.” And in service to humanity, we urge the Board to ensure that Carleton’s $1.1 billion endowment is secured in investments that are aligned with the values Carleton instills in its students.

Send your messages to:

Sample message:

My name is _____, and I am (an alum / a student) of the class of ___. I am writing to request that you support divesting Carleton’s endowment from fossil fuel companies.

I feel strongly that it’s time for Carleton to follow many of its peer institutions and publicly commit to divesting from companies that extract and exploit fossil fuels. 

The burden of climate change falls hardest on citizens of the developing world and the young. In other words, on those who have done the least damage. This makes climate change a human rights issue on an almost unimaginable scale, and it demands immediate and forceful action.

>>This is a great spot to insert a message on your personal experiences with climate change. Among our students and alumni, we have people whose lives have been touched by hurricanes, wildfires, floods and drought, events that have been exacerbated by climate change. Let the Board know that this is not abstract for you.

Thank you very much for considering this issue. Carleton needs to bring its investment policy in line with the values demonstrated by its commitment to a carbon-neutral campus. I believe that divestment from fossil fuels is the right choice for the future of Carleton’s endowment and will help ensure a better planet for current and future graduating classes.


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Letter to President Byerly prior to meeting

In September 2021, Divest Carleton alumni leadership sent the new Carleton president a letter requesting a meeting to discuss our concerns, which resulted in an online call between the president and alumni and student leaders. Here is that letter:

Dear President Byerly,

On behalf of the Alumni of Divest Carleton, welcome to Northfield! We hope you have had a good summer settling in and are looking forward to the 2021-2022 school year. No doubt you will find much to love at Carleton, as we did during our years as students. We wish you success in meeting the challenges of your new position.

The challenge of special concern to us is Carleton’s response to the risks associated with the continued use of fossil fuels. As an alumni group with more than 2600 members from 70 unique graduating classes, we would like to set up a call with you and a few of our members before the end of October so that we can further explain our concerns and answer any questions you might have. For now, in brief, here is an overview of our group.

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Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson calls for divestment in convocation

At Carleton’s May 21, 2021, convocation, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson made an explicit appeal for Carleton to divest its endowment from fossil fuels.

The college was celebrating the significant achievement of shutting off its steam heating plant and switching to its new geothermal system. Many congrats to everyone who has worked so hard to make that happen!

The moderator of the talk asked Dr. Johnson what Carleton’s next steps might be toward increasing sustainability. You can listen to her answer on Carleton’s convocation website, linked above, starting at 28:43. Or read the transcript of that exchange below:

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Divest Carleton Statement on Letters4Carleton

Divest Carleton stands in solidarity with the alumni group Letters4Carleton and its asks of the college: 1) acknowledge the systemic nature of racism on campus, 2) commit to a 10-year plan for anti-racism, and 3) engage all stakeholders, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff, in the process of building this plan through a public, interactive, and transparent forum.

You can learn more about Letters4Carleton by reading its open letter, and join more than 2,000 alumni in signing onto it HERE. It’s time for Carleton to take racial justice and the concerns of its alumni seriously.

Divest Carleton Racial Justice Solidarity Statement

With so many others around the world, Divest Carleton mourns the loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the countless individuals before them whose lives were cut short by racism and racist violence.

We stand in solidarity with the protesters fighting for justice, with the Black Lives Matter movement, with the free press, and with the Carleton organizations that are working to push our own community toward greater equality, including Black Student Alliance (BSA), African and Caribbean Association (ACA), Men of Color (MOC), Women of Color+ (WOC+), Students with Interracial Legacies (SWIRL), and Africana Studies Student Department Advisors.

Alongside these communities and organizations, we demand justice for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. We demand that Carleton provide appropriate accommodations for Black students affected by national events, including academic, mental health, and emotional support. Divest Carleton stands behind the demands of BSA in response to the current crisis, which are found in this document.

We stand as firm allies with any in our community who need or ask for support around racism and equality. People who suffer under systemic discrimination every day should not, by themselves, have to carry the burden of constantly speaking out against it. This commitment also means assisting each other in self-examination of our own internalized racism; racism that affects how we see and treat those who look like us, and those who don’t.

The fossil fuel divestment movement strives for a just and healthy world not only for future generations but for everybody alive today. Marginalized communities in our nation and worldwide are disproportionately affected by both the toxic outputs of the energy industry and the ecological disasters caused by the climate crisis. Divest Carleton holds that our future will not be sustainable unless it is just. Nor will it be just unless we have a sustainable environment for all.

The racist violence of our police forces directly undermines the changes sought by the environmental movement, as the communities most affected by environmental degradation cannot protest safely. When the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe defended their land from the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, police used tear gas and bean bags to remove them, labeled the movement a riot, and arrested journalists. Divest Carleton recognizes that we will not accomplish our environmental goals without overcoming systemic racism and its many effects, including police brutality.

BSA’s Townhall Takeaways includes ideas for things to do at home, places to donate, and how to join a working group to help affect change. Below you can find some articles exploring the intersections between climate justice and racial justice. Please join us in supporting current Carleton students and standing in solidarity for racial justice all over the country.

Divest Carleton

Why Every Environmentalist Should Be Anti-Racist

Black Environmentalists Talk about Climate and Anti-Racism

I’m a black climate scientist. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet.

The Climate Justice Movement Must Oppose White Supremacy Everywhere–By Supporting M4BL

Climate Activists: Here’s Why Your Work Depends on Ending Police Violence

The climate movement’s silence

Revealed: oil giants help fund powerful police groups in top US cities