5C Students March for Fossil Fuel Divestment

Students marched across the 5Cs to call for fossil fuel divestment.

“Trombley! Fossil Free!” chanted over 60 students as they marched across Pitzer’s campus on Monday night. The protestors, who call themselves the Claremont Colleges Divestment Campaign, were on a 5C-wide march to raise awareness about fossil fuel investments held by the Claremont Colleges. They started at Pomona’s Frary steps at 5 p.m. and left their demands at the offices of each 5C president over the next hour.

This protest was the first on-campus action for the 5C Divestment Campaign. Their demands, as put forward on their flyer, were twofold:

  1. Freeze all new investments in fossil fuel companies.
  2. Remove all existing fossil fuel investments in 5 years.

“We want our schools to be investing in more sustainable futures,” said Ben Kersten PO ‘15. “[The administrations] should be using the money in ways that match the values of the institutions.”

The protestors briefly stopped outside Pitzer President Laura Trombley’s office to leave a letter explaining their demands. Prior to the march, the campaign emailed their mission to the administrations, but the in-person drop-off was a symbolic gesture of their goals. The first stop was CMC, then Pitzer, followed by Harvey Mudd, Scripps, and Pomona.

Investment transparency was a major concern of the protest. The Divestment Campaign is especially concerned about the collective $3 billion of endowment the Claremont Colleges hold. Some of the endowments are likely invested in the fossil fuel industry, but the actual breakdown of assets is kept private.

“A lot of this movement is to get that information out,” said Zoe Elkin PZ ’15. “This is our money, we are paying to go here, and where is it going? As students I think that is a right that we have.”

The slogan for the campaign is “5 in 5,” referring to 5 colleges divesting their fossil fuel assets in the next 5 years. Elkin estimated somewhere between 50 and 70 students showed up for the protest, with at least 10 more joining along the way.

“The fact that 70 individuals decided ‘No I’m not going to study for my final. I’m going to spend an hour walking around spreading awareness.’ You know that’s great. It’s the first step,” Elkin said.

The march ended close to where it began, in Pomona’s Frary courtyard. The activists lit candles to signify their efforts to ignite the movement. The candles also represented the campaign’s goal to “shed light on the administration,” explained Claire Pershan PO ’15. Yet, despite their urgent concerns, the 5C Divestment Campaign is hoping to find ways to cooperate with the different administrations.

“We want to work within the system, within the administrations to make this information apparent and hopefully change the way our money’s being spent,” Elkin said.

The campaign has set up a website and petition: http://act.gofossilfree.org/sign/Fossil_Free_Claremont/

Jonathan Rice contributed reporting to this article. 


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