On Tuesday, September 17th, President Michael Roth ’78 sent out a campus-wide email announcing Friday’s Climate Strike. He also announced Wesleyan’s new (?) investment policy. (Read it after the break.)
Disclaimer: The writer of this post is not affiliated with Wes, Divest! The opinions expressed in this post are hir own.
On Friday evening, about forty students gathered in the Exley lobby for a vigil in conjunction with Global Divestment Day, a worldwide event aimed at drawing attention to the destructive nature of the fossil fuel industry. Following other events related to Global Divestment Day, including a banner drop at Usdan and a Climate Shabbat at the Bayit, the vigil, hosted by Wes, Divest!, was held not as a political statement again fossil fuels, but to commemorate the many victims of climate change.
A few days ago, on Sunday, May 4, the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) passed Resolution 11.35: Wesleyan Divestment from Companies Profiting from or Contributing to Illegal Occupation of Palestine. This resolution has two operative clauses. The first calls upon Wesleyan University to divest from companies that a) provide weapons, security systems, prisons, or military support for the occupation of Palestinian land; b) build or maintain the wall between Israel and Palestine and the demolition of Palestinian homes; and c) help build, maintain, or develop Israeli settlements, outposts, roads, and transportation systems in occupied Palestinian territory (defined in the resolution as the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem). The goal of the resolution is to remove the financial incentive to participate in the occupation of Palestinian land. The resolution’s second clause recognizes that the University will likely not divest from Israeli companies, and thus calls upon the WSA to divest its own endowment from the University’s endowment to avoid supporting the occupation by the transitive property.
Unless you shut yourself off from the world this past week, you probably read, or at least heard mention of, The Atlantic’s feature story on fraternities and their dangers, which highlighted Wesleyan University and Beta Theta Pi. The article explores the role of fraternities on campuses, especially in the crafting of party culture and the rise of sexual assault. The article is long, but well worth the read, and has reopened space for dialogue on these issues.
WHAT IS THIS?
When the Board of Trustees came last semester, we made a display in front of Usdan with photos of 160 students holding reasons of why Wes should divest. The Board is coming again this semester, and on Friday at 11:50am, we are recreating our action from last semester, but with real people holding signs explaining why they want Wes to divest.
WHY SHOULD I SHOW UP?
Your attendance is the most powerful way to show your support for Wesleyan’s divestment from fossil fuels. We need student support to let administration know that they can’t wait us out, that we aren’t relenting, and most importantly, that Wesleyan students will NOT be complacent when the destruction of frontline communities, and ultimately our planet, is at stake.
wait, what the heck is wes, divest? go here
When: Friday, February 28th
Time: 11:50 am
Where: Walkway between Usdan and Albritton, in front of North College
“The facts are there, the arguments are solid, and with enough research, we think it’s absolutely clear that this could be a good choice for our university.” – Maya McDonnell ’16
Unless you live under a rock, which, given the advent of chilly New England weather, better be heated, you’ve likely seen groups of concerned students hang hand-drawn banners from almost every high up place in Usdan.
Although they vary in shape, size, and semi-hieroglyphic language, these banners have the same message: Wesleyan needs to step up to the plate and divest from fossil fuels.
Divestment movements are nothing new at Wesleyan. Among the most notable campaigns were the calls to divest from South African companies in the midst of apartheid during the 1970s and 80s. (Our courageous leader, Michael Roth ’78, occupied former President Campbell’s office in support of the South African divestment movement in 1979.) More recently, Students for Ending the War in Iraq (SEWI) demanded divestment from defense companies in light of then-current Iraq War in 2007.
Wes, Divest! started as a rag-tag group of concerned students late last February as divestment movements nationwide began to pick up steam. Co-founder Angus McLean ’16 was surprised that Wesleyan, “the school you would expect to be at the forefront of this movement,” didn’t already have a group devoted to fossil fuel divestment.
McLean mentions that their initial goals included a “direct freeze on new investments and divestment within five years from… funds that include fossil-fuel public equities and corporate bonds.” The group stands by these goals and plans to continue to “work with the administration to figure out the best way for Wesleyan to divest.”
With the arrival of a new school year, the group took on a more concerted effort, setting up a social media campaign and assembling those infamous banners. Bolstered by passionate freshmen, who make up over 60% of the group, and the creation of Fossil Free, a website that links nationwide divestment movements together, Wes, Divest! has gained great momentum on campus.
From the incredible Sonia Max ’17:
Let’s talk about divesting Wesleyan from Fossil Fuels! And celebrate Halloween! Come in orange and black or a fun costume. See you there!
Date: Saturday, November 2
Time: 9:26 PM – 12:26 AM
Place: Farm House (344 Washington Street)
Facebook: Event page
“For almost 40 years I have been so proud of Wesleyan students and alumni. But I am not seeing the level of activism that is necessary for this existential fight.”
Several weeks ago, members of a student group calling themselves Wes, Divest! put together a petition calling on President Roth and the Board of Trustees to divest from fossil fuels. The petition has since amassed more than 250 signatures, many with accompanying messages of support. President Roth hasn’t yet publicly responded. When asked about the possibility of divestment at a WSA meeting in March, he suggested that it was highly unlikely—and argued that Wesleyan’s endowment shouldn’t be a “vehicle for social change.”
As the push for divestment first starts to heat up at Wesleyan (as it already has at Tufts, Amherst, and much of the ‘Cac), we’re presenting a guest perspective by Lauren Steiner ’79, an environmental activist and Wes alum who urges all Wesleyan students to take up the fight now, before it’s too late:
“Plant trees, create recycled art, tour a chestnut orchard, work on an organic garden and much more during Earth Month at Wesleyan!” So reads the first sentence of an article in the latest edition of The Wesleyan Connection emailed to me in April. As an environmental activist who attended the first Earth Day celebration 33 years ago at age 12 and who planned an LA solidarity rally to the D.C. Forward on Climate Rally this past February, I found this quite dismaying. When I was at Wesleyan between 1975 and 1979, when we hadn’t even heard of climate change, we were actively protesting threats to the environment and human health. In 1976 and 1977, activists from Wesleyan joined the Clamshell Alliance protesting the construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. Where is that activism now when environmental threats are so much worse?