November 2, 2023 | NEWS | By Anya Potsiadlo
“Are you here as a friend of the bride or the groom?” Katie Lockwood ’27 asked guests arriving at Shove Chapel last Friday. Lockwood was greeting guests for the symbolic renewal of vows between fossil fuels and Colorado College, an event put on by the Sunrise Club and the Colorado College Reinvestment Coalition ahead of the Board of Trustees vote on divestment proposals.
Students huddled together in the cold while waiting for the ceremony to begin. Cecelia Russell ’24, one of the leaders of both Sunrise Club and CC Reinveset – a national sustainability organization with branches at college and high school campuses across the U.S. – addressed the crowd and introduced the history of the couple’s relationship.
The college’s endowment – a collection of accumulated funds put towards investments to grow its worth – has a current standing value of $953 million, and portions of it have been invested in the fossil fuel industry since the institution’s foundation.
Investment in industries such as big oil, while profitable, effectively proliferates the destructive emissions that contribute to climate change on a large scale. Thus, divestment is the practice of removing endowment funds from these industries. The Reinvestment Coalition’s ideals of reinvestment suggest a redistribution of these funds into more sustainable companies, like those that comply with the standards of the environmental social governance investment movement.
But the idea of divestment at CC is hardly a new concept: as the nationwide divestment movement first began to gain traction around the U.S. in the 2010s, CC’s former on campus divestment group, Fossil Free CC, hosted a wedding in Rastall Dining Hall to raise awareness of the investment of endowment funds in fossil fuels.
In honor of the 10-year anniversary of this failed attempt at appealing to the college’s endowment committee, CC Reinvest began plans to reestablish awareness on campus in preparation for the upcoming Nov. 9 board meeting, where members will take the divestment proposals to a vote.
“Our main goal was to mainly spread the word about divestment and our goals associated with that especially in light of the board of trustees vote,” said Ruby Mae Heathman ’26, one of leaders of both Sunrise Club and CC Reinvest.
By voting to divest, CC would join a long list of other higher education institutions to do so. According to the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Commitments Database, these institutions have a combined endowment value of $40.5 trillion.
One of the most recent institutions to divest was New York University, which announced its divorce from the fossil fuel industry last month.
A guitar and fiddle serenade by Willa McLaughlin ’27 and Massimo Flumian ’27 at Friday’s wedding cued the crowd to part ways for Leah Samuels ’27, disguised as RoCCy, to walk down the aisle and meet her husband, a suit-laden Britt Nerad ’26, who represented the fossil fuel industry.
The ceremony proceeded uninterrupted for a few short minutes, before objections were made by The Personification of Sustainability – in the form of Olivia Burkley ’25 dressed in all green – who conveniently crashed the wedding. Sustainability, who onlookers learned had been involved in an illicit affair with CC unbeknownst to the groom, called out the college, reminding the bride of the promises she had made, and more importantly those which she had failed to fulfill.
A claim of carbon neutrality, Sustainability said, was not good enough without action in the form of divestment.
When asked about whether she feels optimistic about the vote, Rusell said it’s hard to predict, but that the board has looked into divestment before.
Although divestment seems beneficial considering recent financial research, which finds that environmental social governance investments tend to be just as profitable, the board cites CC’s relatively small endowment and the subsequent tuition dependence as a reason for their aversion to divestment.
“We get that it’s hard and complicated,” Russell said. “But at the same time the climate is going crazy, and everything is burning, so maybe it’s time.”
The Sunrise Club and CC Reinvest hope that the rest of the campus community will join them in anticipation of the board’s endowment committee’s climactic vote on Nov. 9, when they will decide whether or not to commit to divestment.
Correction: In an initial version of this article, the Sunrise Club was credited for actions taken by both themselves as well as CC Reinvest. That error has been corrected.
Correction: In an initial version of this article, Russell’s name was only spelled with one “l” in a few places. That error has been corrected.
Correction: A quote was removed from this article because it did not accurately reflect CC Reinvest’s current opinion as to whether divestment will occur.