Divest Dartmouth, a student-run organization that recently launched its official campaign, met yesterday to gather support to pressure the College to withdraw investments from fossil fuel extracting companies.
The meeting attracted nearly 30 students, and the group discussed their hopes for and concerns about the campaign. Dartmouth is now one of over 200 schools involved in the nationwide fossil fuel divestment movement.
Some criticize the movement because they think that investments by universities constitute only "a drop in the barrel" for the fossil fuel industry and will therefore not have a significant impact on restraining it, said Meegan Daigler '14, who facilitated the meeting.
Despite such criticisms, Daigler places great value on the movement's ability to make a strong social and political statement.
Other opponents of the movement argue that if universities divest from fossil fuels, they will eventually have to reinvest in due to a lack of alternatives. Universities, however, can research alternative options in order to replace investments in fossil fuels, Daigler said.
In addition to addressing criticism against the movement, Divest Dartmouth debated ways to develop an effective and inclusive campaign on campus. Conversations reflected concerns about the movement's ability to rally a large number of students behind the cause.
"For some time, we've been waiting for a social movement to captivate Dartmouth," Daigler said. "We haven't had many on campus."
Sam Kernan '14, who attended the meeting, said that the members of the organization should aim to cooperate with the administration as much as possible.
It is also critical to integrate various campus constituents, including other green organizations, into the campaign. Marshalling support from a wide range of students would help persuade the College to make crucial behavioral changes, he said.
Daigler said that the divestment movement sparked her interest because she saw its increasing traction at other colleges and became aware of the movement's potential to engage a broad array of students at Dartmouth.
The movement differs from other environmental campaigns at the College because it necessitates interactions among a range of constituents, from investors and economics professors to environmental organizations and social justice groups, she said.
"A lot of the times, economics and environment don't seem to mesh," she said. "But the divestment movement is different."
Annie Laurie Mauhs-Pugh '14, another Divest Dartmouth organizer, said the movement strives to achieve self-education, publicity and outreach this term.
She said the group can self-educate by consulting with economics professors, divestment campaign groups at other colleges and alumni interested in the cause. The group would then attempt to create a forum to share information gathered from these interactions, she said.
Since the movement has only recently begun at Dartmouth, it would be too ambitious to hope for extensive communication with the administration at this point, she said.
Some students at the meeting expressed concerns that the group does not yet know which fossil fuel companies the College invests in.
Organizer Leehi Yona '16 said the group aims to collaborate with the administration to mitigate limited access to information.
Still, Kernan believes that the organization can ask for change without having all of the details about the College's investments.
"It's not responsible for Dartmouth to say that the problem is too complex and difficult to deal with," he said. "We need to exhibit leadership by addressing the problem."
Another criticism of the movement is that it does not target campus fossil fuel use. Dartmouth currently uses 5 million gallons of harmful number 6 fuel oil per year, Daigler said.
"I think it's a very fair concern," she said. "Hopefully, there will be a side-by-side campaign to push the College to stop running on fossil fuels as well."
Yona said the divestment campaign would be a good opportunity to build momentum for another campaign to "wean us off" number 6 diesel.
Bonita Chen '16, who did not attend the meeting, said she does not believe the movement will be effective. She does not oppose the campaign, but does not think that the College's investments make up a significant portion of the aggregate total amount of investments in fossil fuel companies.
Jeonghoon Lee '16, who was not at the meeting, said the campaign will be effective despite criticism.
"It's more symbolic than mathematical," Lee said. "It's about showing the society that a renowned Ivy League school like Dartmouth would not support fossil fuel companies."
He said that criticism of the movement seem to revolve around economic calculations. The organization, however, makes a statement to the world that students, or "the future leaders of America," will work for more sustainable energy sources.
The organization will hold a teach-in with 350.org campus outreach coordinator Shea Riester and Better Future Project founder Craig Altemose on Feb. 20.