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. 

“Carleton College recognizes that it exists as part of interconnected communities that are impacted by personal and institutional choices. We are dedicated to investigating and promoting awareness of the current and future impacts of our actions in order to foster responsibility for these human and natural communities. Carleton strives to be a model of stewardship for the environment by incorporating ideals of sustainability into the operations of the College and the daily life of individuals.” 

-Carleton Environmental Statement of Principles, Endorsed by the Board of Trustees, Building and Grounds Committee, 18 May 2001 

Carleton, as an educational institution, has led in nurturing scientists and policy makers to address climate change; and as a physical institution, in implementing green campus infrastructure. The same values and intent that have driven Carleton to be a leader in these areas should compel the college to fully assess the role of its investment choices in promoting a sustainable future and to expand on the laudable steps already taken to incorporate environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and governance (ESG) factors into the Investment Manager Selection Process. 

We request that the College adopt the following policies, with the goal of abstaining from  investments in companies whose business practices are obstacles to the promotion of a  sustainable environment: 

  1. Commit to not having any publicly traded direct holdings in Fossil Fuel Companies. For the purposes of these policies, a Fossil Fuel Company is any company in the Carbon Underground 200, any company or asset whose primary business activity (50% or more of its revenues) is to locate, extract, or distribute fossil fuels for the production of energy, or any company or asset whose primary business activity is to provide infrastructure or field services to such companies.
  2. Commit to divesting from any illiquid investments, including fossil fuel real assets (such as mineral rights), in Fossil Fuel Companies when there is no longer a contractual penalty for doing so or there is an economically practicable way to divest prior to that time. Commit to making no new illiquid investments in Fossil Fuel Companies.
  3. Commit to making no new investments in, and divesting within three months from, any fossil-fuel focused index fund, exchange-traded fund, mutual fund, hedge fund, or public partnership. Commit to preferring fossil-free funds over similar funds that are not fossil free.
  4. Commit to terminate business dealings with, and refuse to hire, all fossil-fuel focused financial managers. Commit to preferring managers who specialize in ESG investments and/or hold fossil-free portfolios over similar managers who do not specialize in ESG investments or hold fossil-free portfolios.
  5. Commit to making no new investments in, and divesting within three months from, direct investments in banks, holding companies, or insurance companies with more than $20 billion invested in or dedicated to financing Fossil Fuel Companies. (Example: list of banks on page five of this document details their financing of fossil fuel companies by year.) Commit to preferring sustainability-focused banks, holding companies, and insurance companies over similar companies that have no focus on sustainability.
  6. Commit to seeking and investing in companies whose primary business purpose is to support the transition to a sustainable economy, through means such as generating renewable energy, building energy-efficient infrastructure, developing batteries for electric cars or storing solar energy, etc.
  7. Commit to producing, and making available to the Carleton community, an annual report on the College’s progress on implementing these policies.

We hold that these policies are in the best interest of the College and in alignment with its values, for the following reasons: 

  1. Carleton has publicly committed to the goal of transitioning to a green economy.  Making the requested changes to the endowment would demonstrate Carleton’s  commitment to that goal. 
  2. Carleton has already greatly drawn down its investments in fossil fuels as part of its commitment to ESG principles. Divesting from the remaining liquid investments, letting the illiquid investments phase out, committing to staying out of similar investments, and taking the other actions requested would advance its commitments to ESG principles.
  3. Reducing Carleton’s investments in fossil fuels has widespread support among students and alumni.
  4. News reports and lawsuits have shown that Fossil Fuel Companies deliberately mislead the public about the harms of their products and practices. By continuing to invest in these companies, the college is complicit in this harm.
  5. If our society is to transition to a sustainable economy and limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, as stated in the Paris Agreement, we must stop burning fossil fuels. Aligning Carleton’s endowment with the economy of the future rather than the doomed past makes financial sense.
  6. The very existence and functioning of Carleton is already threatened by climate change, and this threat will increase with time. The window of opportunity to prevent the most catastrophic events from occurring is rapidly narrowing. Carleton must do everything it can, as soon as possible, to preserve a livable future for itself and the entire Carleton community.

For all these reasons, we believe that Carleton would serve its interests and adhere to its values best by joining the growing number of colleges and universities that have committed to divestment. 

Sincerely, 
The Alumni of Divest Carleton 

Gina Atwood ‘91 
Melinda Bell ‘80 
Pam Costain ‘72 
Patrick Dunlevy ‘72 
Eleanor Haase ‘79 
Rebecca Hahn ‘09 
Maddie Halloran ‘14 
Britta Johnson ‘97 
David Loy ‘69
Kathryn Olney P’15
Joan Rabinowitz ‘68 
Joshua Rabinowitz ‘66 
Mikaela Robertson ‘09 
Peter Scheuermann ‘12 
Karl Snyder ‘12 
Dimitri Smirnoff ‘15 
Brett Smith ‘64 
Ben Stiegler ‘77 
Rev Dwight Wagenius ‘64

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.

Sincerely,

Your signature

It Is Time to Be on the Right Side of Climate Change History

Published in The Carletonian on March 1, 2022

By Patrick Dunlevy, Rebecca Hahn, Mindy Bell, Joshua Rabinowitz, Ben Stiegler, Pam Costain, Gina Atwood, Eleanor Haase and Karl Snyder

The following is a letter from Divest Carleton Alumni, a group of alumni calling for Carleton to divest their endowment from the 200 largest fossil fuel companies:

The following colleges and universities have made formal commitments to reduce their investments in fossil fuel companies. The schools are grouped below by the time period in which they announced their decisions regarding fossil fuel holdings.

2021

Amherst College

Boston University

Brandeis University

California State University System

Columbia University

Creighton University

Dartmouth College

Harvard University

Loyola University Chicago

Macalester College

Mount Holyoke College

Reed College

Rutgers University

St. Olaf College

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

University of Oregon Foundation

University of Southern California

University of St. Thomas

Vassar College

Wellesley College

2020

American University

Antioch University

Brown University

Cornell University

George Washington University

Georgetown University

University of Illinois

Wesleyan College

2019

Middlebury College

Smith College

University of California System

University of Massachusetts Foundation

University of Puget Sound

Before 2019

Brevard College

California Institute of the Arts

College of the Atlantic

ESF College Foundation, Inc.

Goddard College

Hampshire College

Lewis & Clark College

Naropa University

Northland College

Oregon State University

Pitzer College

Pratt Institute

Prescott College

Rhode Island School of Design

Salem State University

Seattle University

Sterling College

SUNY New Paltz Foundation

Syracuse University

The New School

Unity College

University of Dayton

University of Hawaii

University of Maryland Foundation

Warren Wilson College

Western Oregon University

Whitman College

Yale University

In addition to these academic institutions, other institutions⁠—such as the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation⁠—have made formal commitments to reduce their investments in fossil fuel companies. Thus far, 1,500 institutions worldwide with managed assets of nearly $40 trillion have committed to reducing their fossil fuel investments. 

Each of these institutions has recognized the threat posed by the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels and decided that a commitment to reducing its investments in fossil fuel companies was an essential part of an appropriate response to this threat. Carleton has recognized this threat but has refused to make the commitment.

Now is the time for Carleton to make a commitment and put itself on the right side of climate change history.

Patrick Dunlevy ’72

Rebecca Hahn ’09

Joshua Rabinowitz ’66

Ben Stiegler ’77

Mindy Bell ’80

Pam Costain ’72

Gina Atwood ’91

Eleanor Haase ’79

Karl Snyder ’12

On Behalf of Divest Carleton Alumni

Published in Viewpoint

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.

Continue reading

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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For many reasons, the time has come for Carleton to divest

By Maddie Halloran, Rebecca Hahn, Mindy Bell and Patrick Dunlevy on May 16, 2021 in The Carletonian

When the fossil fuel divestment movement began at Carleton almost a decade ago, few colleges or universities had committed to moving their endowments out of fossil fuels. By 2014, only two U.S. liberal arts colleges had made divestment pledges: College of the Atlantic and Pitzer College

But today, 10 U.S. liberal arts colleges have made divestment commitments, and not just smaller, environmental schools. Middlebury, Smith, and Wesleyan all committed to divestment within the last few years, and most recently both Amherst and Wellesley did the same.

Besides liberal arts colleges, Rutgers University, Columbia University, the University of Southern California, and Cambridge University have all made divestment commitments in the last few months. Midwest powerhouse University of Michigan committed to divestment this March.

This movement is growing, and Carleton is falling behind.

From a financial perspective, the writing is on the wall. In January of last year, Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s Mad Money and the co-anchor of Squawk on the Street, announced:

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Divest Carleton from fossil fuels to save our school

By Rebecca Hahn, Maddie Halloran and Mindy Bell, on October 3, 2020

For weeks now, five of the six largest wildfires in California’s history have been burning, turning skies orange across the state. This year’s Atlantic hurricane season is already breaking records, with an unprecedented thirteen tropical storms named before September. 

In August, Iowa’s crops were devastated by a 100 mph derecho windstorm that flattened 10 million acres, followed by a subsequent drought. And of course, throughout the country, 200,000 people have died from a raging pandemic that has shut down the economy, cancelled sports and most other activities, and changed the way that our own Carleton College educates its students.

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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.