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Frequently Asked Questions

Our proposal: 

We are demanding that Bates divests the endowment from all coal companies within 2 years and all other fossil fuel companies within 5 years. We propose the formation of a task force composed of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to oversee the divestment process over the 5 year period and to ensure the task is completed. 


What is divestment?

Bates has an endowment, like all other colleges and universities. The endowment is a large sum of money (approximately $250-300 million) that has been built up from donations over time. The Trustees Investment Committee oversees the investment of the endowment in stocks, real estate, bonds, and hedge funds in order for it to grow. Divesting means selling Bates’ investments in a certain industry or groups of companies.

Will divestment hurt the endowment?

No. Investment professionals have said repeatedly that fossil fuels are terrible investments. Schools, towns, and religious organizations across the country have divested from all fossil fuels without feeling any negative consequences. Bates, like other institutional investors already use socially screened funds — avoiding investment in such things as tobacco, firearms, and gambling, military contractors and nuclear weapons manufacturers. Divestment from fossil fuels would work in the same way.  

Will it make a difference?

Divestment campaigns find strength in numbers. When one investor sells its stock in a company, another investor simply buys that same stock. In isolation, this does not have a significant impact on the viability of the company. However, when many investors sell the same stock, the stock price will drop. This effect is compounded when money managers create special portfolios in response to a divestment campaign. For example, during the apartheid divestment campaign, investment managers created apartheid-free mutual funds. This created a serious disincentive for corporations to support the apartheid regime.

Divestment also has a serious political impact. National divestment movements affect the way ordinary people and the media think about and portray an issue. This inspires action in the political arena. Using again the example of apartheid, the apartheid divestment movement caused the United States government to change its political relationship with South Africa.

In just 4 months, the number of student groups running fossil fuel divestment campaigns has jumped from 6 groups to over 120 groups. As large numbers of people get behind divesting from fossil fuels, we can change the political dialogue around the fossil fuel industry, and will help to dismantle the extraction industry’s social license to operate. Our ultimate goal is to delegitimize the fossil fuel industry and inspire strong political action from state and federal governments (Swarthmore Mountain Justice).

Why Coal?


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