Members of Tufts Climate Action (TCA) rallied yesterday ahead of today’s day of action by activists from over 50 colleges across the U.S. to demand that their universities divest their endowments from the fossil fuel industry.
TCA activists gathered outside of the Mayer Campus Center during open block. As members of Bangin’ Everything At Tufts (BEATs) drummed on plastic pails, TCA members Celia Bottger and James Morse, a senior and a first-year, energized a small crowd of students and passersby, leading them in chants which called on Tufts to divest from its fossil fuel investments.
The activists then marched throughout the Campus Center with drummers from Tufts BEATs in tow, disrupting lunching students and continuing their chants.
“We want divestment, we want climate justice, and we want it now,” Bottger said.
At the same time, other TCA members canvassed the Campus Center, circulating a petition in which students could demonstrate their support for divestment with the additional option of indicating that they would not donate to Tufts until it divests from fossil fuels. According to TCA member Hanna Carr, a senior, the activists plan on sending the signatures to University President Anthony Monaco, Executive Vice President Mike Howard and the Board of Trustees.
The nationwide day of action was coordinated by Divest Ed, a national training and strategy hub for student fossil fuel divestment campaigns. According to Divest Ed’s website, the “Fossil Fuel Divestment Day” marks the beginning of a mass escalation for the divestment movement throughout 2020.
According to TCA member Maddy Tennant, yesterday’s rally on campus was not only meant to express solidarity with the nationwide collegiate divestment movement, but also to continue to exert pressure on the university as it begins the process of reviewing its own investments in the fossil fuel industry.
“We’re using this action to get students as involved as possible in making the Tufts administration realize that this whole campus cares about divestment and that it is really time to get the process going,” Tennant, a sophomore, said.
Tufts decided last month to convene an investment advisory committee that will review the university’s investments in the fossil fuel industry and advise the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee on its findings.
The decision to activate the Responsible Investment Advisory Group (RIAG), which the Board of Trustees voted to establish in November 2019, came on the heels of nearly seven years of student activism on the issue as well as a formal proposal submitted by members of TCA encouraging Tufts to join more than half a dozen of its peer institutions in divesting its endowment from fossil fuels.
The administration is currently undergoing the process of identifying committee members for the RIAG. It will be ultimately composed of three trustees appointed by the Board, Tufts’ chief investment officer, the vice president of finance or their representatives, as well as two students and two faculty members appointed by the provost, according to the Board’s policies.
The convening of the RIAG and TCA’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Day action comes as some of Tufts’ peer institutions have already made public commitments to fully divest their endowments from fossil fuels. Just last week, Georgetown University announced that it will fully divest from the public and private investments it has made in the fossil fuel industry within the next decade. Georgetown will also discontinue any new investments in fossil fuel companies and prepare to invest in renewable energy and related fields, according to the university’s new policy.
TCA member Violet McCabe pointed to the fact that Georgetown and Tufts have similarly-sized endowments as a reason for the university to commit to divestment. As of 2019, Georgetown’s financial endowment was approximately $1.9 billion, while Tufts’ was around $1.87 billion.
Accordingly, McCabe, a sophomore, hopes that Georgetown’s decision to divest will not only signal to the administration that divestment is a financially feasible option, but also exert pressure on Tufts as it competes with one of its peer institutions to attract students.
“Tufts prides itself as a liberal arts school with a progressive student body, and the fact that they still have around 2% of their endowment invested in fossil fuels kind of ruins that image, especially after a more conservative university like Georgetown divests,” McCabe said. “Fossil fuels are on the way out — it genuinely makes sense to invest in the future.”