Wesleyan students sent a powerful message to their Board of Trustees, calling on the university to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. Photo credit: K.C. Alvey.

Largest protest yet in an escalating campaign on Wesleyan’s campus

Over 100 Wesleyan students surrounded the pathway outside the Board of Trustees meeting this afternoon to demand that the University develop a plan to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry. The event was the largest rally yet in the ongoing divestment campaign.

“We don’t want our education being funded by climate destruction,” said Maya McDonnell ‘16. “Wesleyan should invest in our future–not in companies that are poisoning communities and destabilizing our climate.”

At 12:00PM this afternoon, Wesleyan students lined the path from Albritton to North College holding signs that said “This is Why” with their personal reasons for supporting divestment. A number of student leaders spoke, calling on the administration to live up to its values of social responsibility and sustainability. As the chapel bells tolled, students dropped a banner from the student center balcony.

Abby Cunniff ‘17 asserted that “divesting from coal, oil, and gas companies is a powerful political tactic to combat the fossil fuel industry’s influence on our government and exploitation of communities.”

Students launched Wes Divest in spring 2013, joining over 300 campuses from across the country that are calling for fossil fuel divestment. On Oct. 27th 2013, Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) passed an official resolution supporting divestment. Students have also met with representatives from the Committee for Investor Responsibility to request divestment, but the administration has yet to develop an actionable plan pertaining to fossil fuel divestment.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth stated in his inaugural address that the Wesleyan community is characterized by a “respect for difference, a concern for the disadvantaged, an activism that searches for justice, an experimental culture that produces aesthetic and scientific innovation.”

“As a self-proclaimed progressive university, it is our duty to set an environmentally conscientious example for our fellow institutions, following the footsteps of peer liberal arts schools. Investing in any market is inherently political, and we’d like our endowment’s investments to reflect the values of our student body, as well as the Wesleyan mission statement,” said Heather Whitmore ‘17.


100 Wesleyan students gathered outside the Board of Trustees meeting to demand divestment from fossil fuels. Photo credit: K.C. Alvey

In the most recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s top climate scientists warn about the dangers of surpassing a 2 degrees Celsius rise in global warming. The fossil fuel industry has five times the amount of carbon in its reserves needed to push the globe past this 2 degrees of warming.

However, Claire Marshall ‘17 made it clear that “Wes, Divest is as concerned with the social implications as it is with the environmental consequences. We want the community to know that we are absolutely concerned with the health of our endowment and the school’s ability to provide strong financial aid. The two issues are not mutually exclusive. Investing in fossil fuels is equivalent to valuing money over human lives.”

In addition, investors are increasingly aware of the growing risk of a “carbon bubble” for financial markets. A number of studies show the potential decline of companies with carbon intensive operations in coming years.

“We know we don’t have to choose between investing ethically, increasing financial aid, adopting a non-discriminatory admission policy, treating faculty and staff with respect, and transitioning to a more ecologically responsible campus,” said Josh Krugman ‘14.

The fossil fuel divestment movement has had several victories in 2014 already, including a group of foundations representing nearly $2 billion in assets committing to fossil fuel divestment, recent endorsements from World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and UN Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres. In total, nine colleges and universities have committed to pursue fossil fuel divestment, along with dozens of cities, states, religious institutions, foundations, and other institutions.


For more information on Wesleyan’s divestment campaign, visit: