Religion Department Students for Divestment

Op-ed submitted by Lo-Yuan Chou ’15, Damella Dotan ’15, Benjamin Ellentuck ’14, Marcus Ford ’15, Christopher Geissler ’13, Joshua Gregory ’15, Porsché Poole ’14, and Naia Poyer ’14, majors and minors in the Department of Religion

A variety of important issues have recently dominated our campus discourse, but between the challenges we face as a community and the impending exams we will soon face as individuals, broader-scale problems remain. In particular, certain fossil fuel companies continue extremely destructive practices such as shale-gas fracking in an industry that inherently damages the ecology of our planet through increasing concentrations of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. We, the undersigned students of the Department of Religion, strongly support the efforts of Swarthmore Mountain Justice and urge Swarthmore College to divest from the sixteen companies they highlight. Their proposal is at the heart of the core mission of the College, to provide a high-quality, affordable education to its students, and offers an important opportunity to express our values in a meaningful way. To begin to divest would require a complete and thorough analysis of the impact such action would have on the endowment and the College’s budget, an analysis which is beyond the purpose of this article.

Through the lens of religion, we have studied a wide variety of social movements and seen how they galvanize. From the American Civil Rights Movement to Indian Independence, from environmental stewardship to the abolition of slavery, major structural changes are possible when large numbers of people come together to exert pressure. As we see it, Swarthmore College is in a position to lend its support to the issue of fossil-fuel divestment, which we see as a rallying point for a set of critically important and related issues, from particular extraction techniques that wreak havoc on a regional scale, to the rise in carbon levels in our atmosphere, which affects all life on our planet. If we divest, we will contribute to a movement currently gaining momentum across college and university campuses that is part of a much larger national and international push against our addiction to fossil fuels and the companies that supply them.

Aside from the role we can play as part of a movement, however, we still believe it is necessary for Swarthmore to do what it can to divest from these companies. An apocryphal story has it that William Penn, a young English nobleman and Quaker convert, once asked George Fox, a founding visionary behind the Society of Friends, whether or not it was acceptable for him to continue to wear his sword as a Quaker. Fox is said to have responded, “Wear it as long as you can.” We see our position with regards to fossil fuel companies in a similar light: knowing the many terrible things these investments stand for, it is unconscionable for us to continue to associate our name, that of Swarthmore College, with these corporations. Where we invest reflects on our values, and it is plainly obvious that the actions of the sixteen corporations Mountain Justice lists place them firmly at odds with the values of the community that is Swarthmore College. We urge all members of the College community to support Mountain Justice’s divestment campaign, and we are hopeful that our leaders will join us soon.


Did you like this article? Consider joining the DG! Open staff meetings are every Monday at 6:30 p.m. in Kohlberg; or email us at editors@daily.swarthmore.edu.

12 comments

  1. 0
    [Blank] Students for [Blank] says:

    Okay, so I’m sure religion relates to this peripherally, but if we’re talking specific departments advocating for divestment, I would much prefer to see “Science Majors for Divestment” or “Economists for Divestment”. I’m not sure you have the right expertise here.

      1. 0
        [Blank] Students for [Blank] says:

        From speaking to my fellow science majors, I sincerely doubt that. Certainly, there would be no way to publish an article claiming that all science majors are for divestment.

    1. 0
      Chris Geissler '13 says:

      I’d love to see more departments show their support! The goal of this is to reframe the discussion to be organized along academic lines. By joining with the Op-Eds by History Department students and faculty, we’re trying to build a movement on the part of departments across the College. By working in this way, we also encourage faculty to get involved.

      I’d also like to push back against the notion that we need to have specific expertise in order to share an opinion. Of course, I’d love to see a pro-divestment statement by Economics majors from their field’s point of view, but as members of the Swarthmore community, we all have a strong interest in what investments our community makes. We also took care to avoid economic arguments, as there are a range of different kinds of arguments to be made and these were the ones we felt were most important for us to make. Arguments can be made both for and against divestment, but this article seeks simply to present a couple of the most compelling ones on the “for” side.

      Additionally, to counter the assertion that this is by students already involved in divestment activism wearing different hats–only one of the authors (to my knowledge) has been significantly involved with Mountain Justice. I’ve never been to one of their meetings, but I was the one who suggested we do this and wrote the first draft.

      1. 0
        Maybe there is a reason we haven't seen an econ majors for divestment column? says:

        …. I wonder what it is?

        Though to be fair, it isn’t as if Swarthmore’s econ major teaches you anything useful about investment.

  2. 0
    Wha? says:

    Does anyone even read these op-eds before they sign them anymore??

    If you’re getting published, at least put a little effort into it!

    “To begin to divest would require a complete and thorough analysis of the impact such action would have on the endowment and the College’s budget, an analysis which is beyond the purpose of this article.”

    Why bother mentioning it? Wait, are you saying yes divest or yes analyze divesting?

    WHAT IS YOUR THESIS. WHERE IS YOUR ORGANIZATION.

    “As we see it, Swarthmore College is in a position to lend its support to the issue of fossil-fuel divestment, which we see as a rallying point for a set of critically important and related issues, from particular extraction techniques that wreak havoc on a regional scale, to the rise in carbon levels in our atmosphere, which affects all life on our planet.”
    What does this sentence even say?! SO MANY COMMAS.

    “Aside from the role we can play as part of a movement, however, we still believe it is necessary for Swarthmore to do what it can to divest from these companies.”

    What? Why still? Was the movement argument actually in opposition? What does this sentence mean also? Do you mean, “In addition to being part of a movement…” Actually, I couldn’t really figure out what this transition was saying.

    And in the very end, what does any of this have to do with being a religion major??? I’m sure there are reasons more than “I read something in class once” but you didn’t give me any!

  3. 0
    Just Your Average Swattie says:

    RULES TO BEING A SWATTIE:

    1) WRITE ARTICLE TO SUGGEST A NEW GROUP OF STUDENTS IS NOW SUPPORTING AN EXISTING CAUSE. THEY’LL NEVER KNOW WE ARE ALSO FROM THE EXISTING GROUP.
    2) FACTS ARE ONLY FACTS IF WE WRITE THEM. EVERYTHING ELSE IS HEARSAY. WE MUST NEVER ADDRESS THE NAYSAYERS!
    3) WRITE HOW MORALLY SUPERIOR WE ARE, AND HOW THE OPPRESSORS DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT US OR THE WORLD. AFTER ALL, THEY’VE PROBABLY NEVER EVEN READ A BOOK. WE DID. LOTS OF EM.

    IF WE CONTINUE TO FOLLOW THESE RULES, THE BOARD WILL HAVE TO DIVEST, RIGHT?

    RIGHT?!?!?!

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