You argue second that divestment would not send an effective message because it lacks a comprehensive policy agenda to overhaul the global energy economy. This is an impossible standard. Divestment is effective precisely because its message is strong and simple, as shown by a recent Oxford study. That message is this: the coal industry is so harmful that we cannot, in good conscience, continue to profit from it.
Of course, divestment is a means, not an end. How we expedite the transition away from coal to mitigate climate change and avert disaster calls for research to which Brown should contribute. But that research must not coincide with the coal industry’s continued malpractice; it must not disguise and rationalize inaction. Your refusal to divest from coal condones an industry that makes its money perpetrating the disproportionate suffering of marginalized people here and abroad.
Your mention of lunch counter sit-ins as a foil to coal divestment is opportunistic and ahistorical, not to mention ironic. In the same way that you admit coal’s harms while saying no to divestment, white moderates in the 1960s claimed to support integration and equal rights while decrying sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Just as their moderacy looks like cowardice and hypocrisy today, your rejection of divestment will look the same when half of Florida, and the vast majority of its economy, is underwater.
Your compliments of our “commitment and purpose” are condescending. Time and again you have invoked the campaign, without our consent, to promote Brown’s “spirit of open discussion” to donors and prospective students. Meanwhile, you attempted to end this community’s commitment to divestment in a closed-door meeting that welcomed zero students or faculty but welcomed at least five Corporation members with significant financial ties to the coal industry. And then you didn’t even take a vote.
We have gone through your established channels — bureaucratic machinery meant to sap the energy from every campaign on campus fighting for social justice — and these channels have yielded exactly nothing. You say that you are creating a task force to identify “Bold and aggressive ways” Brown “can lead. . . the societal response to climate change.” Well, we’ve got an idea to get the task force started: divest from coal.
We will see you at the next Corporation meeting, and every one after that, until you act in a way that bespeaks the conviction and conscience of your faculty, alumni, and students.
Yours in Protest, Brown Divest Coal