by Bo Ra Kim, Sierra Student Coalition, Bates Energy Action Movement
Yesterday, Friday May 3rd, 2013, nine Bates College students from the Bates Environmental Action Movement (BEAM) met with six members of the Board of Trustees to discuss Divestment. We had high hopes for this meeting and created an agenda that would show these trustees why divestment was an urgent matter and the need for Bates College to be a leader in this movement. Every single student extensively practiced their agenda point, we all ran through the agenda multiple times, but in the end, despite our perfect delivery, it was clear that our efforts were not going to lead to any commitment to divestment.
As we moved to the discussion portion of the agenda, the trustees continuously complimented us on our ability to raise awareness about this issue to the board of trustees. They wanted us to be proud that we have gotten the entire Board of Trustees to focus on this issue and talk about it multiple times. And yes, we are proud of that, but that is not our goal and that is not what we are asking for. The trustees refused to commit to creating a task force to work on divestment, and did not even consider committing to divestment. What they were willing to say and rephrase multiple times was, "The committee [the Investment Committee on the Board of Trustees] is committed to keep talking about divestment".
BEAM does not want continued discussions. BEAM does not want to be a part of meetings where trustees will just pat them on the back for getting this far. BEAM does not want to be just another agenda item.
BEAM wants the trustees to publicly commit to total divestment from the fossil fuel industry over the next 5 years.
To President Clayton Spencer and the Board of Trustees:
Bates College's mission statement states that Bates is dedicated to "Preparing leaders sustained by a love of learning and a commitment to responsible stewardship of the wider world". The students of Bates College want to live up to our mission statement. One of the trustees told us in our meeting that yes, we have the moral high ground in the divestment debate. If you know that this is the right thing to do and it is the socially responsible choice, is it not worth the small risk? For a school that prides itself in having been established by abolitionists, who were unable to overlook the moral ramifications of slavery, how is it that we can ignore the international issue of climate change? Bates was late in the Apartheid Divestment movement and we should be ashamed of that. Let us take that lesson and move forward to be the leaders in the fossil fuel divestment movement--let us divest from fossil fuel companies, showing the rest of the colleges and universities that Bates College is an institution that is not afraid to live up to its values.
With the sounds of a trustee's stony cold statement "Bates will never be the leader in this movement" ringing in our ears, BEAM will not rest until Bates does exactly that. Two Maine schools have already divested (Unity College and College of the Atlantic). How much longer until Bates steps up to the mantle of environmental leadership?