Use of endowments discussed at NESCAC schools

This week in NESCAC News, students congregate in support of just distributions of college funds.

This week Divest Amherst, a student-organized advocacy group at Amherst College, led “Divest Week of Action.” According to The Amherst Student, the week was designed to cultivate campus awareness and support for the College’s divestment from fossil fuels. Of the College’s $2.2 billion endowment, the Amherst Board of Trustees invests $110 million in fossil fuel companies, outraging many environmentally conscious students. While Divest Amherst has frequently advocated for the college’s full divestment from fossil fuels, “Divest Week of Action” involved tabling, a collaborative art project, writing statements in chalk around campus, and putting up Post-It notes to gather support. On Thursday night, the Keefe Campus Center held a viewing of a documentary on climate change called, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” A rally on Friday night brought the “Divest Week of Action” to a meaningful close. The rally consisted of many speakers who addressed the effects of the drought in Massachusetts, the controversy surrounding the Dakota Access pipeline and how it relates to Amherst’s investments, and the moral duty Amherst has to address climate change. A member of Divest Amherst, senior Brian Beaty said, “The Amherst campus, especially, is kind of sheltered from what’s happening in the rest of the world.” While making a small impact on the Board of Trustees, Divest Amherst still aims for complete divestment from fossil fuels.

Tufts also recently held discussions about divestment. On Oct. 13 the Board of Trustees at Tufts met to discuss a May 6 faculty resolution that advocated for Tufts to divest a portion of their endowment from fossil fuel companies. The faculty resolution called for Tufts to divest holdings in fossil fuel companies in its separately managed endowment funds. It also advocated for the eventual full divestment of all holdings in fossil fuel companies by the same vote margin. Chairman of the Tufts Board of Trustees Peter Dolan said that this conclusion had not changed, saying, “[Our rejection of divestment] continues to be the case, particularly as our endowment returns, like those at many universities and colleges, have diminished,” Dolan told the Tufts Daily in an email. “Therefore, the Board of Trustees reiterates its support for its current investment policy.”

In the same vein, Williams Junior Erin Hanson began a petition on change.org calling for a better distribution of funds at Williams College. The petition, titled, “Williams College: sell 4-5 marble slabs to pay for a new therapist at the Health Center,” is directed at the College administration and argues that the thousands of dollars spent on marble blocks in the multi-million dollar renovation and quad project would be better spent on Health Center staff. According to the Williams Record, Hanson quotes the Williams Committee of Transparency and Accountability, “There are only eight therapists and one psychiatrist who serve a community of 2,200. At least one in five college students … have some kind of mental illness. Even if all eight worked full time, there would not be enough time for all students with need to be served.

“Furthermore, three of the eight therapists are fellows, who [are not licensed, paid less, and on short term contracts]. Of the three people of color on staff, two are fellows. There are few LGBT staff, and no transgender staff.” Hanson’s petition suggests that Williams sell four or five marble blocks and use the resulting funds to hire an additional therapist for a year with a salary of $45,000. According to the Williams Record, Hanson asserted, “The wait time to see a therapist or the psychiatrist—for me it was two weeks—is unacceptable” and that Williams needs “more diverse therapists that can do culturally adapted counseling work for a range of clients, that can understand and empathize with experiences of race and racism, queerness, gender dysphoria and disability. There is much research to suggest culturally-tailored therapy is vital for patient improvement.”

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