Could Lesley Be the First School in Boston to Divest?

03/03/2015 04:51 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2015

Posted on behalf of the student leaders of Fossil Free Lesley

Something huge just happened quietly in the fight for climate justice here in Boston: a small college with heart, Lesley University, just divested their direct holdings in fossil fuels. This was about $7 million, representing 35% of Lesley's dirty energy investments. As students who call Lesley our home, we are particularly proud that our school has taken this meaningful action. Deeply concerned with the fossil fuel industry's reckless pursuit of profit at the cost of countless current and future human lives on an increasingly warming planet, we were ashamed to discover last year that Lesley invests in that injustice. We started Fossil Free Lesley in the fall of 2013, and after over a year of petitioning, building student power, and meeting with the board, we are relishing this victory.

For a city full of progressive institutions of higher education, we are proud that Lesley University is the first Boston school to divest, albeit partially, from fossil fuels. We understand that this decision was partially motivated by our concerns about the incongruity of our investments and our values, and partially by the fact that these investments are no longer as profitable as they once seemed. Both of these are great reasons to divest. Lesley should not be investing in the destruction of current front-line communities and of our own future - and especially not if fossil fuels no longer produce strong profit for those investments. The truth is, fossil fuels' days are numbered, and as our government and other governments take climate change more seriously, the carbon bubble will burst, and Lesley does not want to be left holding the pieces of low-value Exxon stocks.

While we're incredibly proud of Lesley, the fight is not yet over. Divesting from direct holdings is a huge step, but now we need Lesley to take that step to its fruition of full divestment from fossil fuels, including our indirect holdings. With overwhelming evidence that climate change is already causing immense harm to our people and planet, we know it is immoral to continue to invest in an industry that directly undercuts Lesley's mission to contribute to shaping "a more just, humane and sustainable world."

We have two asks of Thomas Riley and the rest of our Board: first, we want Lesley to freeze any new investments in coal, oil and gas. Second, we want them to publicly commit to a 5 year plan for full divestment from the top 200 publicly traded oil and gas companies. Any investment professional will tell you this is more than enough time to divest. It will also ensure our Investment Committee continues to work on divestment after we graduate, held accountable to the public, not just a handful of students and alumni.

It's not clear that Lesley is ready to take these steps, so we have a request for our supporters in the Boston area. We need to crank up the pressure on the Board to show them that the Lesley community is behind this full force, and that we aren't going anywhere. The Investment Committee is meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, March 4th at 1:30 -- we need you there to help celebrate our direct divestment victory, and help push Lesley to be the first school in Boston to divest from fossil fuels. This is our chance to create the change necessary for a viable future. This is your chance to make it happen. So, will you join us?