Join us in withholding your donations
until Williams commits to keep endowment money
from financing fossil fuel extraction. Sign below.
Members of the Williams College Board of Trustees,
We will withhold any further contributions to Williams College, and urge current and future alumni to do the same, until the College takes direct steps to divest its endowment funds from fossil fuel-based companies.
Investment in fossil fuels is not a morally neutral act. Accepted science has clearly demonstrated the existential threat to the planet from the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Its fundamental impropriety is heightened by the fact that the largest producers of petroleum products have invested significant resources in deliberately suppressing climate science, misinforming the public, and purchasing political influence to protect their industry at the expense of safer and saner alternatives.
Moreover, President Trump and most of his cabinet not only deny the existence of global warming, but appear committed to policies that can only exacerbate its effects in the interest of the fossil fuel industry. For Williams not to take a firm, public stand against such dangerous sophistry is to turn its back on its historic moral responsibility.
Some contend that a decision to divest from fossil fuels presents a choice between Williams’ moral responsibility and its financial responsibility to maximize return on its investments. We believe that Williams' decisions should always be driven by moral responsibility, but we are also convinced, given continuing research on investment risks and returns, that in this case what is morally correct would be the more financially sound course to take over the long term.
We note that Yale University, whose endowment fund is managed by one of the most respected investors in the world, added climate change awareness to its investment strategy and has moved to eliminate its exposure to oil and coal industries. Longitudinal studies have shown the wisdom of this strategy, demonstrating that over time portfolios without fossil fuel investments have fared as well and sometimes better than those with such investments. We are concerned that the large number of Williams’ Trustees who themselves have significant investments in fossil fuels has stood in the way of the College’s serious consideration of a similar, forward-looking position that reflects Williams’ national leadership role.
We note that you have asked your fund managers to consider the impact of their investments on greenhouse gas emissions. We now ask that you follow up with more meaningful action. We request that you create a three-year plan that:
1- identifies the extent to which endowment funds are financing fossil fuel extraction, misinformation, pro-fossil fuel lobbying, and other initiatives that work against efforts to confront climate change;
2- directs the endowment’s fund managers to begin divesting from those investments as soon as possible and in no case later than three years; and
3- disassociates the College from fund managers who persist in financing endeavors that contribute to global warming.
We did not reach this decision lightly. As advocates of a strong Williams, we understand the role alumni donations play in supporting its continued role as one of the premier educational institutions in the country. We believe it is wrong, however, for the College to ask for contributions that it in turn invests in industries that threaten our very survival. We look forward to the time when we can once again offer our financial support to Williams.
A look back to our work in 2014-2015, including our original petition that lead to the trustee's current plan to confront climate change...
This year, a majority of students and faculty, and hundreds of alumni asked the trustees to begin moving endowment investments away from fossil fuel companies. Their response commits to important investments in education, campus energy efficiency, and renewable energy technology, but completely closes the door to divestment. There was no willingness to innovate and provide leadership for our peer institutions on a major challenge: decoupling our financial interest in an industry that works against our mission.
The companies we currently invest in put our future at risk by extracting the carbon that will dramatically change our climate. To ensure their profit, they fund campaigns to cast doubt on established climate science. This is not an appropriate business for Williams to invest in. We're disappointed that the trustees have refused to even try to confront this problem.
So, we continue to ask for divestment. Because this is a challenge we can overcome.
Please consider and sign our petition below to demonstrate your preference that the investment strategy for our endowment should reflect the best climate science and the College’s core values of civic leadership, integrity, and service to society at large. You may read the full proposal submitted on 12/10/14, and our response to the trustees' decision.
Also, consider the petition to give more to Williams if divestment and better emissions standards are reached.
This initiative is put together by Williams alumni, students, faculty, & staff. Join us!
Williams alum returns honorary degree in protest of College's climate plan. WAMC, 10/23/15
Williams divestment movement disappointed at College's climate change strategy. Berkshire Eagle, 9/26/15
Divestment and Leadership. Professors Merrill and Swamy in the Williams Record, 9/23/15
No rest until we divest. Alex Griffin '18 in the Williams Record, 9/16/15
Divestment group says Williams College climate change plans fall short. WAMC, 9/14/15
Petition to the Williams College Board of Trustees:
We ask the Williams College Trustees to:
- screen out all future investments in the top 200 fossil-fuel companies;
- within five years, divest the endowment of all direct and indirect investments in these same companies;
- reinvest in opportunities that will reduce the college's reliance on fossil fuels and companies that will enact solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
We believe that reinvestment over five years can be accomplished without adding risk to the endowment's financial return and we are excited for Williams to lead our peer institutions forward, ensuring that our investment operations are inline with our sustainability policies.