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My Letter on Divestment to Middlebury College Trustees

Old_chapel_photoDear Chairwoman Whittington and President Liebowitz:

RE: Alumni support for fossil fuel divestment

I am one of many Middlebury College alumni who strongly support the proposal for the college to divest out of the top 200 fossil fuel companies. As co-secretary of my class, a contributor to the college magazine, and a longtime financial supporter of the college, I see divestment as representing the very best of Middlebury College.

Divestment was the topic of a column I wrote as a regular contributor to the local Addison Independent. I’m enclosing that column for more perspective on how many alumni view this issue.

In addition, I would note the following:

1) Divestment represents an opportunity for the college to show national and international leadership. The college’s identity and “brand” are strongly aligned with environmental betterment. Divesting will attract more financial support and high-caliber students, at a time when the institution we all love is competing for both.

2) Divestment is consonant with your board’s admirable – and widely noted — commitment to environmental studies and the environment. It makes no sense for Middlebury to be profiting from investing in highly polluting fossil-fuel companies, given the danger posed to the climate by burning these fuels at the current rate.

3) There is precedent for this, in the Board Of Trustees’ 1986 decision to divest out of companies that did business in apartheid South Africa. I would point you to Bishop Desmond Tutu’s support of fossil-fuel divestment as equivalent to divesting out of apartheid South Africa.

4) Just as apartheid was a moral issue, investing in and profiting from fossil-fuel companies raises serious moral questions. These companies’ activities contribute to climate change that is already causing great suffering for millions of people. Does Middlebury really want to continue to support those activities?

5) Divesting will have little if any negative financial impact on the college. It’s my understanding our fossil fuel investments are about 1% of the total portfolio. The college had the courage to divest out of apartheid South Africa when it affected a much greater portion of our portfolio.

6) As I have learned from closely following the student divestment movement, the student group you will hear from represents a responsible, strong majority view.

I believe you may also hear a proposal from students to divest out of arms manufacturing companies. This request has merit, but I encourage you to consider it in the near future, and act now to divest out of fossil fuels.

Thank you for considering these and the many other pro-divestment comments you are receiving. I have great hopes you will do the right thing.

Sincerely yours,

GREGORY DENNIS
Alumnus and Co-Secretary, Class of 1974

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