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February 8, 1991

South African apartheid divestment activists return funds held in escrow to Swarthmore

In January of 1986, Swarthmore fined students who occupied the president’s office to demonstrate for divestment from apartheid South Africa. Members of the community helped to pay for the fines and secured a deal with the administration whereby that money would go to an independent account, to be returned to the College only if it fully divested.

Swarthmore agreed to fully divest in March, though it delayed starting the divestment process until 1989.

In February of 1991, Christine Scott ’88 and Anne M. Blackburn ’88, managers of the independent account, donated the funds to the endowment, having felt that Swarthmore had satisfied the terms of the agreement.

Unbeknownst to Scott and Blackburn, the Board of Managers would secretly adopt a policy banning any future divestment that same year (the exact date of the ban’s adoption is unknown). The Board instituted the ban in direct reaction to the South African apartheid divestment campaign.

Would Scott and Blackburn still have donated the money if they knew about the ban?

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1991

The Board of Managers adopts the ban on ethical divestment

The ban, part of the endowment fund’s “Statement of Investment Objectives and Policies,” states: “As a matter of policy, the Investment Committee manages the endowment to yield the best long term financial results, rather than to pursue other social objectives.”

Students involved in the fossil fuel divestment campaign began referring to this policy as “the ban” after the Board repeatedly cited it to dismiss their demands. The Board has also used the ban to block other campaigns, including

  • Divestment from arms manufacturers (2001)
  • Divestment from companies involved in the Israeli apartheid state and occupation of Palestine (2009, 2019)
  • Ending the ban (2018)

Little public information about the ban and its adoption exists. The date of the ban’s adoption is not known. The Board did not offer a rationale for instituting the ban because it did so in secret. Even the investment policy which contains the ban is not publicly available.

Almost everything known publicly about the ban comes from explanations of the policy by administrators and Board members. Those explanations are short on details and sometimes contradictory.

(find more swat sources about this b/c, of course, the ban itself isn’t available nor is contemporary sources about its adoption).

https://sites.sccs.swarthmore.edu/divestmentdocuments/2020/10/05/swarthmore-college-endowment-fund-statement-of-objectives-and-policies-1997/

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April 19, 2013

Mountain Justice calls for an escalation of the fossil fuel divestment campaign

https://swatoverlaps.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/volume-8-issue-1/

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2013/04/19/op-ed-no-more-business-as-usual/

Have this acompanying doc: https://swatmountainjustice.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/fossil-fuel-divestment-101_may-2013.pdf

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March 19, 2021

Know the Ban, Ban the Ban II

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2021/03/19/know-the-ban-ban-the-ban-ii-duplicitous-ban/

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April 23, 2015

Faculty vote in favor of fresh divestment proposal

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2015/04/23/faculty-vote-divestment/

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February 23, 2017

After SGO referendum, board still votes “no”

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/02/23/after-sgo-referendum-board-still-votes-no/

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/02/23/mountain-justice-wins-referendum-in-landslide-board-rejects-partial-divestment/

https://www.swarthmore.edu/presidents-office/feb-22-2017

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February 21, 2017

students vote on a Mountain Justice referendum for partial divestment from fossil fuels

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/02/21/what-will-the-board-do-if-swarthmore-votes-yes-to-divest/

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/02/21/explain-like-im-five-what-exactly-is-partial-divestment/

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March 24, 2017

Swarthmore College Faculty Resolution on Fossil Fuel Divestment and Reinvestment

https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/12ityjLoJ8fJVPsLY5FYTYQmweKfomQzFhXX7bsxbfYM/pub

https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/10jURfGJUcXIN7wKaIkedqfSYbF7GcbTZM7xjfWry00o/pub

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/04/05/40565/

https://www.swarthmore.edu/news-events/students-faculty-challenge-board-managers-2013-and-2015-decisions-not-to-divest

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March 21, 2017

Administration threatens students with probation and fines for Feb sit-in

https://swatmountainjustice.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/administration-threatens-students-with-probation-and-fines-for-feb-sit-in/

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/03/24/an-open-letter-to-president-valerie-smith-and-associate-dean-of-students-nathan-miller/

https://www.inquirer.com/philly/blogs/real-time/Swarthmore-students-cited-sit-in-divestment-fossil-fuels.html

Swat’s “justification” https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/03/23/40393/

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/04/03/40546/

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February 20, 2015

faculty deliver a letter in support of divestment to the Board signed by 92 professors

https://swatmountainjustice.wordpress.com/category/press-feed/page/2/

https://swarthmorephoenix.com/2015/02/23/faculty-deliver-letter-in-support-of-divestment-to-board-of-managers/

http://www.swatmj.org/2015/02/20/faculty-deliver-open-letter-to-board-signed-by-92-faculty/amp/