Swarthmore students stage sit-in for selling off oil and gas investments

    Dozens of Swarthmore students and a handful of alumni launched a sit-in Thursday to push for the college to sell its investments in coal, oil and gas companies.

    The students are demanding a commitment from representatives of the school’s Board of Managers to re-open divestment negotiations. 

    The sit-in is the first in a wave of climate change actions planned on campuses around the country in the lead-up to a week-long demonstration at Harvard in mid-April, according to student organizers. 

    As of late Thursday afternoon, they said they had no plans to leave the school’s main administration building.

    Senior Sara Blazevic was among the 40 or so people camped out in the hallway outside the schools’ finance offices. 

    “I’m here today because I think out school needs to align its investments with its values,” Blazevic said. “I don’t want my tuition money going to the very companies that are destroying my future.” 

    Swarthmore students were the first in the country to launch a climate change divestment campaign in 2010, and hundreds of other schools have since followed suit.

    The college’s Board of Managers decided not to divest from fossil fuel companies two years ago.  As of last summer, Swarthmore’s endowment was worth $1.9 billion.

    This school year, organizers gathered about 2,000 signatures of students, faculty and alumni on a petition calling for divestment.

    “This is about Swarthmore and about the conflict we have,” said freshman May Dong. “But it’s also about the national discussion and getting people to realize that divestment is a legitimate solution and a strategy to pursue.”

    Swarthmore’s interim president Constance Hungerford addressed the demonstrators Thursday afternoon, telling them the administration is listening and “considering what we hear thoughtfully.”

    She added the board is already planning to continue the conversation about climate change and divestment at its May meeting.

    A member of Swarthmore’s Board of Managers told the Associated Press in 2013 that divesting from fossil fuel companies would cost the school’s endowment between $11 to 14 million a year.

    Swarthmore students successfully pushed the school to eliminate investment links to South Africa in 1986 as part of the anti-apartheid movement. That movement also took years to gain steam, beginning in the late 1970s and culminating when the college decided to sell its investments in South Africa in 1986.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal