The Bowdoin Orient

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1 days ago

Mills says he is divestment liaison, BCA not satisfied

President Barry Mills said on Tuesday in an interview with the Orient that the Board of Trustees informed members of Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) in October that he would be their point of contact as they moved forward with their campaign to pressure to the College to divest its endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.

“I have not heard word one from these people,” said Mills, who added that he has not interacted directly with BCA since the group delivered its divestment petition to him in April 2014.

In recent weeks, BCA has threatened to “escalate” its campaign if the Board does not appoint a trustee to serve as a divestment liaison to the student body by March 6. Mills, who is a trustee, said that he is the liaison between students and the Trustees.

Matt Goodrich ’15, a leader of BCA, said he was surprised to hear that Mills was claiming to be the liaison, and added that he was not satisfied with the choice.

“We’ve been having unproductive conversations with [Mills] for years,” he said. “We already know what side he’s on, and it’s not climate justice, certainly.”

This academic year is Mills’ last at the College, and Goodrich said BCA would prefer a long-term liaison.

“We really want someone who we can have developed conversations with,” he said. “We want to have relationships with the Board members in a way that will facilitate the process so that we’ll end up with divestment at the College in a responsible way.”

Goodrich said that BCA will announce in the next few days if it plans on following through with its plans to escalate its divestment campaign, and expressed hope that another liaison could be appointed before March 6.

“We were expecting—and we are expecting still—a member of the Board of Trustees that we can work with,” he said.

BCA did not explain what escalation would look like. 

Other schools' divestment movements have recently stepped up their efforts and could serve as models. Divest Harvard, for example, has recently occupied the building which houses the offices of the university’s president, Drew Faust.

In its recent messaging, BCA has accused the Trustees of over 130 days of silence since they heard BCA’s proposal in October. Mills said that this an unfair representation of the Board and its reception of BCA.

Although Mills does not support divestment, he said he believes climate change is a “huge issue” and that instead of focusing on divestment, which would be a symbolic step, Bowdoin students should find ways that the College can continue to become more sustainable.

Mills reiterated his belief that divestment would have a negative effect on the College’s endowment and financial aid budget, which BCA has denied.

“If our endowment does not perform well, the idea that our financial aid budget will be immune is naive,” Mills said.

In recent years, the boards of peer schools Amherst and Middlebury have formally examined the possibility of divestment from fossil fuels, and both boards determined that divestment was not the best path forward for their respective institutions.

Mills said he is not advocating a similar study at Bowdoin because the Trustees are already well informed on the issue and feel they have yet to hear a compelling argument for divestment.

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