“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?
Left to right: Michael Bennet ’87, John Hickenlooper ’74, Peter Shumlin ’79
Some Wesleyan alumni are seriously making their ways up in the political ranks, my friends: all three of our school’s top current politicians have been nominated to lead the two official campaign organizations of the Democratic Party. Senator Michael Bennet ’87 will be the new Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin ’79 will lead the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ’74 as the DGA vice-chair!
The news broke earlier this afternoon and evening: Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Bennet’s new position at today’s Democratic Caucus luncheon, stating that “Michael is one of the brightest rising stars in the Democratic Party, and he is exactly the right person to lead our efforts over the next two years.” Later on in the evening, it was announced that the DGA had elected Shumlin as their new chair, along with Hickenlooper as his side-kick. Quite the day for Wesleyan politicians indeed!
For some fun facts about Wesleyan students correcting political journalists on their research skills, look after the jump.
Nearly a year ago, we reported on an impressive number of Wes alums elected to congressional and gubernatorial office in the midterm elections of 2010. Among the notables was Peter Shumlin ’79, a former Vermont state senator from Putney who attended Wesleyan in the same class year as President Roth and later helped found Vermont’s Landmark College, one of only two colleges in the country designed for students with learning disabilities. Shumlin, a 55-year-old Democrat, had won the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor back in 2002, but that didn’t quite work out.
In 2010, Shumlin sought the highest office in Vermont and won, receiving 117,561 votes to Brian Dubies’ 113,227. The governor’s priorities in the first months of his term remain largely faithful to his campaign promises: reforming Vermont’s health care system and seeking to close the state’s Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.
Until last week, that is. Hurricane Irene ravaged through southern and central Vermont last weekend, destroying homes, killing at least three, and leaving a startling number of towns without electricity, phones, or adequate food supplies. Thrust suddenly into the national spotlight while dealing with Vermont’s worst national disaster in over 80 years, the freshman governor has proven himself an inspired leader in a state with relatively little experience in disaster management.