Kenyon College trustees just announced that the school will not divest its endowment of fossil fuels, instead putting priority on endowment returns. According to the Kenyon Collegian, trustees said divestment would not have an impact on the environment and they did not see divestment as a way to effect change.
The decision comes after a lengthy campaign by the campus group DivestKenyon. Trustees addressed the issue following an April 20 meeting between the divest group and a representative from the college’s board of trustees. DivestKenyon had been calling for the board to divest its $208.9 million endowment from all fossil fuel holdings—reportedly totaling seven percent of the overall endowment.
Most recently, DivestKenyon demonstrated in front of an inn on the college’s campus which prompted the Kenyon Board of Trustees to directly respond. Joseph Lipscomb, chair of the Budget, Finance and Audit Trustee Committee said, “Divestment is not going to change things – it’s just not.” Lipscomb went on to say that the board acknowledges climate change as a real threat, but does not believe divestment will produce any impact on the environment. In addition, the trustee committee does not “want to make investment choices that could lower endowment returns, thereby preventing people from attending Kenyon.”
Lipscomb’s concerns are valid as a recent study conducted by University of Chicago Professor Daniel Fischel shows divesting a school’s portfolio can eliminate 23 percent of returns over a 50-year timeframe. Endowments are vital to maintaining a college’s overall financial stability and factor heavily into budgets. Less money in the budget means less money the school can spend on things like tuition assistance, scholarships, and student programming.