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Swarthmore Mountain Justice is a student organization committed to fighting for climate justice. We are currently working in concert with over 100 other student organizations and national partners to move our universities’ endowments out of the fossil fuel industry. We are calling on Swarthmore College to divest from its current holdings in sixteen fossil fuel companies, or the “Sordid Sixteen.” These companies violate countless health, safety, and environmental regulations, the burdens of which are usually borne by low-income communities and communities of color. The fossil fuel industry is also one of the primary culprits of the climate crisis and corrupts our political system with incredible financial power. A large-scale divestment movement not only cuts into that financial power, but it also affects these companies on a political and moral level.

In addition to our on-campus organizing, Swarthmore Mountain Justice strives to work in solidarity with communities on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction, burning, transportation, and waste. We refuse to stand by while our school invests in the destruction of communities and regions through mountaintop removal, the tar sands, hydrofracking, deep sea oil drilling, coal exportation, and other forms of destructive fossil fuel extraction. It is time for Swarthmore to become a true leader in the struggle for climate justice. Swarthmore has the opportunity to take a bold stand for a just and sustainable future by refusing to support the very companies that are destroying that future. Join with us in calling on all United States colleges and universities to divest for our future!

Twitter: @SwarthmoreMJ


A Letter from Ken Hechler, Class of 1935

To President Rebecca Chopp,

My fellow Alumni,

and the entire Swarthmore Community:

Since I was graduated from Swarthmore in 1935, I have lived a long life of dedication to the common good. I served in the United States Army during WWII, nine terms in Congress and was the only Congressman to march with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama, I then served four terms as the Secretary of State of West Virginia. Since the early 70’s I have actively campaigned against the coal mining method of mountaintop removal, which is devastating the environment and economy of my adopted home state of West Virginia.

I firmly believe that Swarthmore instilled in me this passion for justice. It was clear when I was a student that social justice, responsibility and stewardship were core tenets of the college’s institutional mission. At the Quaker institution reputed for its activism, I learned to fight for what is right. I have been pleased to see this characteristic of the college still exists. In her inaugural address, President Chopp reaffirmed this mission, noting that “Swarthmore College is blessed by its deeply rooted commitment to educate, to set anew, and set aright.”

Today, students at Swarthmore are living up to the college’s mission by fighting the injustices of the fossil fuel industry. Societal reliance on fossil fuels is an environmental, economic, and racial injustice. Though pollution and climate change affect us all, poor communities and communities of color suffer the severest impacts. One just has to look at the damage of hydrofracking in Western Pennsylvania, mountaintop removal mining in Southern West Virginia and the oil spill in the Gulf. Some of these areas are home to Swarthmore students and their families. Despite the sobering evidence of the destructive impact of extraction, Swarthmore is invested in many fossil fuel companies. Having seen and experienced the impact of mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia, I believe that these investments are unconscionable.

For over a year now, student activists have been calling on the college to divest from fossil fuel companies. I am writing to tell you it cannot be the sole job of students to advocate for the common good. To truly be a social justice institution, Swarthmore must practice what it preaches: it is time for President Chopp and the Board of Managers to live up to Swarthmore’s founding ideals and historic principles by ending its investments in unjust and harmful fossil fuel companies. 

When President Chopp was inaugurated, she asked, “Can there be any doubt that we must do all we can to sustain the beauty of this good earth?” At the moment, Swarthmore is not doing all that it can. It is my hope that it will as it moves away from investments in coal, oil, and natural gas, permanently cutting ties to industries that are destroying individuals, communities, and our “Good Earth” itself. 

At this writing, I will begin withholding donations to Swarthmore until I am assured my money is not indirectly contributing to MTR mining or other fossil fuel extraction, and therefore the destruction of my home. Since the voice of conscience raised by the students is not enough to spur change, perhaps this financial pressure will be.

I hope all other alumni will join me in this withholding of donations. You know that together our voices will be heard. Together, we can ensure that Swarthmore returns to the just and sustainable institution we once admired.

Ken Hechler
Class of ‘35


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane Church permalink
    December 16, 2012 12:50 pm

    Thanks, Ken, for understanding the long-range damage coal companies are doing to our mountains and their beauty, the residents who have resulting toxins in their waters and the wildlife that disappear.
    Keep it up, Ken. You are absolutely right and I and countless Americans are right behind you.

  2. January 3, 2013 9:51 am

    Thank you Ken for this beautiful letter. There is no time to waste and I hope that Swarthmore will be at the forefront of changing the tide away from fossil fuels.
    Elizabeth Lavin Kelley ’87

  3. John McDiarmid permalink
    April 9, 2013 5:48 pm

    Great letter. Congratulations to Swarthmore Mountain Justice. Swarthmore needs to divest now.–John McDiarmid ’68

    • May 7, 2014 11:41 pm

      Thanks to all the students who are pricking our consciences! There are many alumni who feel the same way that Deborah Averill and John McDiarmid do–we want the College to divest from fossil fuel investments!

      If you are an alumn and you feel strongly about this, please contact me at: Please state your year of graduation. I’ll let you know what some of us plan to do to put a little pressure on the College.

      Richard (’65)

  4. Richard Grossman permalink
    April 22, 2013 12:28 am

    I just posted this to the Swarthmore College Bulletin Facebook page:

    At Swarthmore I learned to attempt to change things that I don’t like; that is part of our alma mater’s long Quaker tradition.
    Not only did I learn a lot at Swarthmore, but I met my beloved wife of 46+ years, Gail (Sise). I feel that I owe a lot to our college.
    Recently I learned that Swarthmore has investments in fossil fuel suppliers. Indeed, its huge endowment is apparently not screened for immoral investments such as arms manufacturers and tobacco.
    Although I had the importance of ethical behavior reinforced at Swarthmore (at the cost of 30 work hours!), Gail and I find this sort of investment policy to be unethical.
    Furthermore, investments in fossil fuels is probably unwise from a financial standpoint. As governments realize the harm that burning fossil fuels causes to the environment and to the climate, it is likely that these investments will become less valuable.
    We are just two voices, but I know that there are others out there who share our concerns. I have four suggestions.
    1. Write on this Facebook page how you feel about our College’s investment policy.
    2. Pressure the Swarthmore College Bulletin to carry an article about screening of investments and divestment of investments in fossil fuel developers.
    3. Put pressure on the Board of Managers. Although there are various ways to do this, we plan to write each Board member a letter about these concerns. We also plan to withhold our planned donation to celebrate our 50th reunion until we know that the Board is making progress toward screening its investments and divesting fossil fuel investments.
    4. We are not alone! Learn about and support Swarthmore Mountain Justice ( We older grads can learn from current Swarthmore students!
    Richard Grossman, ’65

    Congratulations for following your consciences and for being activists!

  5. May 4, 2014 12:46 am

    Back in July 2013 I sent a letter to President Chopp and the members of the Board of Managers, letting them know that I will not contribute to the College until a plan is put in place to divest from the fossil fuel industries. The response I received from President Chopp basically said that the College is continuing the holdings in the fossil fuel companies in order to be able to exercise “shareholder activism.” I believe that this is simply an excuse to avoid the complexities that might be involved in finding (e.g. in holdings such as mutual funds) and in replacing these investments with socially responsible ones. As an alum of generational Quaker background, this is especially troubling for me.

    Thanks, students of Mountain Justice, for taking a stand on this issue. There are lots of us out here who are with you.

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