The Environmental Justice Town Hall, hosted by Climate Justice at Boston College (CJBC), EcoPledge, FACES Council, Boston College’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA), and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), took place this past Thursday in Boston College’s Schiller Institute. The event featured presentations from each group surrounding their findings on divestment justice and Boston College’s investments, their hopes and plans for BC’S divestment, and how their research relates to their club’s mission.
Previously named Divestment Town Hall, this annual event was forced to change its name against the will of CJBC. “Our club was strongly discouraged from using the word ‘divestment’ in our advertisements for this event and told in so many words that this event would not be approved unless the title was amended,” CJBC Club President Cece Durcan, MCAS ‘23, said. “I want to emphasize that ‘divestment’ is not a bad word.”
While the event’s title emphasized environmental justice, CJBC’s mission focuses on divestment, which simply means ceasing financial involvement in a particular industry or sector, and BC’s subsequent role in the fossil fuel industry. As it is suspected that Boston College invests in many companies that profit off fossil fuel or private prison sectors, concerned students believe these investments would be better utilized in improving conditions on campus rather than looking beyond it.
Groups strived to communicate to attendees just how large BC’s endowment is (3.7 billion dollars) and how, according to the goals of their clubs, Boston College could begin reinvesting this massive sum of money into something much more productive. SJP representative Nick Scalera, MCAS ‘23, suggested BC’s divestment from Boeing, as the company profits off the occupation of Palestine, while Jasmine Yehia, MCAS ‘25 of YDSA proposed a greater investment into University Counseling Service resources. CJBC's Jacob Lassner, MCAS ‘25, suggested that BC should advocate for a safer environment for LGBTQIA students, starting with a resource center for identifying members of the student body. All groups made sure to convey that obstacles to justice and equity such as climate change are connected to issues of divestment, and that the points being made should continue on as conversations even after the event ends.
FACES’s presentation brought an important point to light. “Right now, BC’s investments are private information,” Aman Mohapatra ‘23 admitted, “but holding BC accountable and showing those investments as public allows us to scrutinize what they're doing and make the change that is needed.”
CJBC Vice President Stephanie Robinson ‘23 spoke to this point later on. BC’s investments, Robinson said, are “about as translucent as the wall behind me…They [BC] do not disclose any of their portfolios or investments publicly.”
Boston College’s response to the many requests to make their investments public has been nonexistent and willfully ignorant. “I’ve been playing email tag with, actually, one of [Boston College’s] investment officers for about two years now to try to get a meeting,” Robinson disclosed.
Against these obstacles, however, the groups remain strong in the fight to urge BC to divest from companies whose profits derive from practices of injustice. Students understand that BC student culture is starting to change, even if this alteration persists at a gradual pace.
Maureen Kelly, MCAS ‘23, in her presentation as EcoPledge co-president, testified that in her almost four years here she has “noticed a major shift in the student body’s general consciousness towards sustainability and environmentalism. I’ve talked with faculty who have seen this change over the past two decades.” The reason behind this? Kelly believed it to be simple: “More people care.”
The town hall concluded with a question-and-answer session in which each representative answered inquiries and expanded upon their findings. Many questions focused on how students could stay involved with the divestment movement here on campus.
“We are all individuals, so there is stuff we can’t do, like, we can’t individually make BC divest but…this is a great first step,” Kelly said. Mohapatra echoed this statement, saying, “Learn more, educate yourself, and make that difference…every group here did a great job of doing that today and that’s something we want to continue moving forward.”