Divest Andover held a large student demonstration in front of Samuel Phillips Hall in an effort for Andover to divest from its fossil fuel investments. On Friday, May 6, students walked through campus with self-made banners, chanting slogans to advocate campus-wide support for divestment.
First created in 2020, Divest Andover is one of multiple organizations under the Phillips Academy Sustainability Coalition. It aims to combat the issue of climate change through financial issues present in the school, according to Frank Zhou ’22, the head of the Ambassadors for Climate Curriculum.
“Divest Andover is an initiative meant to interrogate why Andover’s investments and endowment is entangled with fossil fuel companies, whose activities are currently contributing quite directly and quite significantly to the climate crisis. Its goal then is to get the Academy to commit to divesting from fossil fuel companies and fossil fuel holdings and reinvesting that money into sustainable investments as soon as possible,” said Zhou.
Alice Fan ’23, Co-Head of Andover Climate Lobby stressed the need for Andover to commit to divestment, which would allow Andover’s long term contracts to expire without renewal.
“Right now, we know that the Academy has 4.3 percent exposure to fossil fuels, and that they’re all indirect, but it still exists. And 4.3 percent exposure is still $43 million, if you think about the billion dollar endowment. [The] goal is to encourage the academy to commit to divesting from fossil fuels [and] instead reinvest in renewable energy companies.”
Alexa Vinton ’22, head of Divest Andover, noted that the demonstration was planned only a week in advance following the news that many trustees would be coming to campus from May 9 onwards. According to Vinton, the demonstration was made with not only the student body in mind, but also the trustees.
“I wanted people to see the multitude of issues on this campus that may not be at the forefront of everyone’s attention, [for] everyone to be aware of the change that’s happening on this campus along with other activism campaigns. The trustees were on campus this weekend and divestment happens on the trustee level. Their last response [to us] was that there was a lack of community consensus. [So] we wanted to show that there is community consensus, and [that] there is a desire for change. It was strategic in the way that we wanted the trustees to see that this matters to us, and it should matter to them,” said Vinton.
ND Nwaneri ’24 found the event to be an opportunity to further educate himself on the issue and voice student opinions towards the trustees.
“Right now, we’re trying to get consistent communication between the trustees, administration, and students. I went genuinely because I felt strongly that this was an opportunity to make our voices heard by the trustees. They’re not on campus a lot, so this was an opportunity to sort of get our point across and make sure that they hear us,” said Nwaneri.
Eleanor Tong ’24 also found the demonstration to be educating and empowering. While recognizing Andover as an educational institution, Tong hopes Andover will lead other small institutions with its effort in divesting.
“A lot of people overlook the fact that Andover is not just an academy, it’s an entire institution. It does have financial endeavors beyond education. I think that it is a huge part of the problem. And one step for a smaller institution, like Andover, to distance themselves from reliance on fossil fuels, sets such a big example. Because it’s such a place of history, prestige, and respect, I think that it will cause kind of a bigger stir, and hopefully cause others to follow an example,” said Tong.
The demonstration amplified the voices of the student body and brought together students fighting for the same cause. Vinton expressed her satisfaction with the demonstration and the new opportunities for Divest Andover.
“[The demonstration] exceeded my expectations in terms of turnout and enthusiasm. We were allowed and our voices were heard. The trustees heard us. There was talk after the investiture with some trustees and diversity and diverse students went around looking for trustees to explain their situation and to campaign divestment. They heard us loud and clear and are currently thinking about it. I would call that a success,” said Vinton.