First Middlebury College divestment panel set for Jan. 22

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College next week will hold a symposium to discuss the college’s endowment policies and practices. The 90-minute panel, to be held on Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the McCullough Social Space, is to be the first in a series of talks about the endowment to address the possibility of reinvesting elsewhere the $32 million of the endowment that is currently invested in fossil fuel companies.
“This initial symposium will focus not on global warming per se — a topic whose importance and complexity merit deeper and broader conversation than will be feasible on Jan. 22 — but rather on two topics that also lie along the ‘critical path’ for potential changes in the college’s endowment management policies and practices,” college president Ron Liebowitz wrote in a Jan. 9 email to the college community. “What factors should the college’s trustees consider in determining whether and to what extent to place new restrictions on the deployment of the college’s investable wealth? … (And) What are the pros and cons of using divestment and/or other means to address climate-related concerns?”
The panel in McCullough Social Space will be open to the Middlebury College community, though an as-of-yet undetermined overflow space will, “if warranted,” live stream the talk. The public will be invited to the overflow space.
Liebowitz said that the panelists would include Scholar-in-Residence Bill McKibben, founder of the climate action group 350.org; Ralph Earle, a clean energy venture investor and former assistant secretary of environmental affairs in Massachusetts; Alice Handy, the founder and president of Investure, the company that manages Middlebury College’s $900 million endowment; Mark Kritzman, an author and MIT adjunct professor in finance; and John Tormondsen, a 1982 Middlebury College graduate, a college trustee and chair of the trustees’ investment committee.
The panel will be moderated by 1978 Middlebury grad David Salem, former founding president and chief investment officer of The Investment Fund for Foundations (TIFF) as well as a past member of the college’s board of trustees and investment committee.
Middlebury College originally pledged to hold symposia on its endowment in an early December announcement that it would take “formal steps” to consider divestment. The December announcement came at the end of a fall semester that saw several student-led direct-action protests on Middlebury’s campus that championed the divestment cause. These included a false press release announcing divestment circulated by students posing as a “Dalai Lama Welcoming Committee” and a demonstration at a talk by a visiting Shell Oil executive. Student groups on campus nabbed statewide media coverage for some of their actions.
Separately but concurrently to those protests, McKibben launched a cross-country tour calling for colleges and universities nationwide to divest from fossil fuels through his climate action group 350.org, which has currently launched petitions for divestment at 210 American universities, including Middlebury.

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