Environmental Leadership Actions Network is a student organization at Ithaca College that is encouraging members of the IC administration to “divest” or remove their investment holdings from 16 large corporations.
The group has joined about 100 other colleges — including Cornell University — to spread awareness about the national divestment campaign and promote a similar initiative, DivestIC, on IC’s campus. Ithaca Now spoke with Ren Ostry and Kat Pongrace, members of Ithaca College’s Environmental Leadership Actions Network who are actively involved with the group’s divestment campaign.
What does divestment actually mean and how does it affect students on campus?
“If we want to see a world worth graduating into, where we’re not having 100-year floods every two years, where the ice caps aren’t melting into the sea, and endangered animals aren’t dying left and right, we need to reexamine the way we vote with our dollars. Private institutions such as Ithaca College invest that money — which arguably is owned by everyone — into all aspects of the economy. It’s just the way it’s been. This is kind of a wake up call for us to say, we can change what we are giving power to, and we can ask our administration to pull that money out and take a stand and make shift for a healthier future for all of us.”
Why does this matter to college campuses? Why is it important for college students or college campuses to divest before anyone else?
“Campuses give us a really unique opportunity to use large institutions as a way to make change. The way it works is that any college has an endowment, and it’s kind of like the institutional savings account. Money that we put in from tuition, in addition to money from donors, is put into this. That money is invested in all aspects of the economy, so in the automobile industry, in the energy sector — really any way that will make money. The way that they invest this money isn’t really regulated, in terms of ethical or social responsibility standards. It’s interesting because there’s so much power that we have in that because it’s arguably our money that’s being used and we’re members of this institution. Ithaca seems like such a sustainable and green-minded community, and it is. But our institutions should be backing that up with our dollars.”