Naomi Gross and Hannah Yoder, both seniors, wrote* a petition on Jan. 31 to the Goshen College community which stated their demand for the institution to divest its accounts in J.P. Morgan Chase, the banking company which has given its support to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.That day was also the day in which North Dakota senators recommended an easement passed on to them by the Army Corps of Engineers suggesting they allow the drilling under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, both on top of lands held by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land. The petition reminded students of President Brenneman’s recent message to students, ensuring them of Goshen College’s commitment to social justice in these times of political upheaval.
“This easement would finish the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, and have disastrous implications for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and everyone in the country due to the large potential environmental destruction that will occur,” said Gross. “The fight at Standing Rock is twofold: a fight for indigenous self-determination and a fight for the water and the environment.”
In accordance with that call to social justice, students, professors and alumni alike have signed the petition supporting the seniors’ demands for divestment. Nearly 200 signatures have been acquired, attracting the attention of the administration.
Since then, the easement has been passed, allowing the continued drilling without proper environmental impacts studies. Gross, Yoder, Laura Miller, Sarah Hofkamp, Chelsea Risser and Naomi Salvador, all seniors, met with several members of the administration on Feb. 2,* to discuss possible plans for Goshen’s divestment.
Glenn Gilbert, sustainability coordinator, Deanna Risser, interim vice president for finance and Ken Newbold, provost and executive vice president were the administrators present in that meeting.
Miller, Gross, and Hofkamp have drafted a tentative statement of intent for the college, which reads:*
"Open Letter: Divest Goshen College from Chase Bank
Recently President Brenneman issued a campus-wide email declaring his and the institution’s commitment to social justice. On January 31, ND Senators Hoeven and Cramer issued statements suggesting that the Department of Army has recommended that the Army Corps of Engineers grant Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) the necessary easement to drill under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River on Standing Rock Sioux Tribe land. The granting of this easement would be a clear violation under federal law, which declares that no easements can be granted before existing Environmental Impact Statements are complete. The granting of the easement could come at any moment.
Therefore, we, as Goshen College students, demand that Goshen College divest all institutional funds from Chase Bank, a financial sponsor of DAPL, and make a corresponding public statement explaining their withdrawal from Chase and declaring their opposition to construction of DAPL. We demand that this statement be directly released to Goshen College, the City, State Senators, Chase Bank, and the Army Corps of Engineers."
“It’s not just about the Pipeline,” said Gross. “It’s worth noting that Chase is invested in many other unethical corporations and industries, including private prisons (GEO Group and CoreCivic, the two largest private corrections companies in the US) and the military industrial complex.”
Through Chase, which is the college’s primary bank, Goshen conducts day-to-day operations and holds $24 million in debt through the bank. Because the college has many small accounts, the process is timely and costly, ultimately preventing the divestment in one swift action.*
“Because most of us involved are seniors, we need to recruit people who will be invested in this process for years to come,” said Miller. “We need students who care about the issue, as well as students with some business knowledge.” In this sense, the college would work through the divestment alongside the students.
Many of the students involved in this process have already left campus, a decision made after the easement was passed, to travel to Standing Rock in solidarity with those who continue to protest at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Gross, Yoder, Risser, Salvador and Deeksha Pagar, a junior, all left by car on the night of Feb. 7 to protest for the foreseeable future.
“We encourage other people to come as well,” said Gross. “Just make sure you are organized and ready when you come.”
For those who are interested in becoming a part of this process and conversation, email Laura Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the two students released the statement. It also incorrectly stated that the meeting was held on Feb. 6. It also incorrectly implied that tentative plans were laid out for the coming years.