Student group brings national divestment movement to Geneseo

Although many businesses, organizations and even whole cities have dropped their investments from the fossil fuel industry in recent years, many colleges and universities across the country still have money invested in oil, coal and natural gas companies. “For colleges that are supposed to be preparing us for the future, we don’t think it’s appropriate for them to be investing in something that is destroying our planet,” junior Jessica Kroenert said.

Kroenert is a member of Divest SUNY Geneseo, the campus faction of the greater “divesting movement,” which works to convince investors to take their money out of the fossil fuel industry across the nation. The goal of this campaign is less about the actual investments, however, and more about taking a stand against the fossil fuel industry and its role in climate change.

“Geneseo divesting, or even the whole [State University of New York] system divesting, isn’t going to make a huge difference to the fossil fuel companies,” junior Mallory Ennist said. “But it’s more of a public demonstration that we don’t want our future powered by fossil fuels.”

While divesting is a relatively new initiative for Geneseo, Kroenert said this isn’t just a local concern; there are many student-led divestment campaigns across the country.

Geneseo’s campus has been taking steps over the years, including changes to reduce waste from dining halls, increase recycling and make newly constructed buildings more energy efficient.

Kreonert added that although Divest Geneseo is working on getting campus groups to drop any investments they have in fossil fuels, both the Geneseo Foundation and Campus Auxiliary Services still have investments in fossil fuel companies.

The group is making progress however, and eventually hopes to spur divestment in the whole SUNY system.

“This is a movement that’s really growing,” Kroenert said. “And for us to be the ones that start it off rather than jump on the bandwagon at the end would be a really positive thing.”

According to Kroenert, the group has been working on ways to spread the word, including forming partnerships with other clubs, beginning a letter-writing campaign and raising funds for typhoon emergency relief in the Philippines. It will also screen a film about the movement, titled Do the Math on Nov. 21.

The group has also been trying to use the movement’s signature orange backpack squares to get people talking about the cause. The group’s unofficial arts and advertising manager sophomore Jason Phillips said Divest also plans aesthetic displays constructed in the Union to grab people’s attention.

“We know that a lot of what we’re working toward is a big symbolic gesture,” junior James Kruegler said. “But we’re hoping that, by becoming part of this bigger coalition, it becomes such a big, thoughtful act that people start [to] think more about these ideas – or maybe start [to] think about them at all.”