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Middlebury College students forum to spur divestment of fossil fuel stocks

MIDDLEBURY — As the Middlebury College administration gears up to hold a symposium to discuss the college’s endowment policies and practices next Tuesday, student activists and Scholar in Residence Bill McKibben will get a bit of a jump on the process with their own divestment event this Sunday.
The college will kick off a formal process to consider divesting its endowment from fossil fuels and arms manufacturers with a major “Do The Math” event at Mead Chapel on Jan. 20 from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
“If you’re curious about divestment, this event will be a chance to see why it has suddenly emerged as the biggest student movement in a very long time,” says McKibben, Middlebury’s Schumann Distinguished Scholar and co-founder of the international climate campaign 350.org.
Over 200 colleges and universities across the country have joined the new fossil fuel divestment campaign that McKibben helped launch this past fall with 350.org’s sold-out 21-city “Do The Math” tour. The campaign is modeled on the 1980s campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa.
This November, in response to a surge of student activism at Middlebury, College President Ronald Liebowitz revealed that 3.6 percent of Middlebury’s $900 million endowment is invested in fossil fuels. The president agreed to a formal process to consider divestment that will begin next week.
“‘Midd Does The Math’ will offer the Middlebury community a chance to engage in a movement that belongs to all of us,” said Greta Neubauer, a student organizer on campus. “We appreciate the administration’s commitment to dialogue and look forward to this conversation yielding a commitment to action.”
More than 700 students, faculty, administrators and community members are expected to attend the Jan 20 “Do The Math” event at Middlebury.
For its part, the college has scheduled a 90-minute panel for Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the McCullough Social Space. It 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.
In an email to the college community, Liebowitz emphasized that this symposium will not focus on global warming, but would look instead from a higher level at what divestment in general would mean to the college.
“What are the pros and cons of using divestment and/or other means to address climate-related concerns?” Liebowitz wrote in a Jan. 9 email to the college community.
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.
The panelists will include McKibben; 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.

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