Divest Ed is a left-of-center environmentalist group that trains students to protest universities that have endowment funds invested in oil, coal, and natural gas companies and related industries, and advocates for “divestment” of endowment funds invested in those companies. It is a project of its fiscal sponsor, Better Future Project (BFP), an environmentalist advocacy group.
History and Training Program
After several years as a smaller project of Better Future Project, Divest Ed launched in October 2018, with funding from BFP and 350.org, an international environmentalist group focused on online activism. Divest Ed is part of the Fossil Fuel Student Divestment Network, a project of the U.S. Climate Action Network, a coalition of environmental activists that seeks to “stigmatize the fossil fuel industry” and popularize environmentalist energy alternatives on college campuses. 1
The centerpiece of Divest Ed’s work is a one-year “organizing fellowship,” through which two students per university are selected to spend a year training how to be divestment activists, including learning about the economics of university endowments. Divest Ed generally trains about 40 activists per year. 2 Divest Ed also has a summer fellowship program that trains college and high school students to organize divestiture protests. Its 2020 summer class of 12 fellows include students at Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, and New Mexico School for the Arts. 3
In October 2019, after several years of protests by activists, the University of California system announced that it would withdraw its investments from all fossil fuel-based companies. Divest Ed was among the groups that claimed credit for pressuring the system’s Board of Regents into the move. Alyssa Lee, who founded the group Fossil Free UCLA while a student at University of California-Los Angeles, was the first director of Divest Ed. 4 The group has also claimed partial credit for Georgetown University’s 2020 decision to divest its endowment. 5
In November 2019, about 150 activists from Divest Ed and other organizations stormed the field at the annual Harvard-Yale football game and unfurled a banner. Students from the stands joined the activists on the field, stopping play for nearly an hour. 6
On February 13, 2020, Divest Ed organized a “Fossil Fuel Divestment Day of Action” at approximately 50 universities and colleges nationwide, including Boston College, Boston University, Clark University, College of the Holy Cross, Mount Holyoke College, Northeastern University, Smith College, Tufts University, and Yale. 7 In the rally held at Tufts, “members of Bangin’ Everything At Tufts (BEATs) drummed on plastic pails” while students trained by Divest Ed “energized a small crowd of students and passersby, leading them in chants which called on Tufts to divest from its fossil fuel investments.” 8
Alyssa Lee, a staffer with Better Future Project who graduated from UCLA with B.S. in microbiology, was the first director of Divest Ed. After founding Fossil Free UCLA in 2012, Lee served as a regional organizer for the Divestment Student Network and the California Student Sustainability Coalition before coming to BFP and Divest Ed. 9 The current director of Divest Ed is Kriss Mincey, a 2012 graduate of the University of Maryland who is a jazz musician. 10
- “Our Partners.” Divest Ed. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://divested.betterfutureproject.org/our-partners.
- Sarah Shemkus. “Divest Ed looks to help fill gap in fossil fuel divestment movement.” Energy News Network. Feb. 19, 2019. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://energynews.us/2019/02/19/northeast/divest-ed-looks-to-help-fill-gap-in-fossil-fuel-divestment-movement/
- “Our 2020 Summer Organizing Fellowship.” Divest Ed. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://divested.betterfutureproject.org/fellowship.
- Emily Williams and Theo LeQuesne. “The University of California Finally Has Divested From Fossil Fuels.” The Nation. Oct. 8, 2019. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/california-fossil-fuels/
- “Fossil Fuels Divestment Continues Georgetown’s Commitment to Sustainability.” Georgetown University. Feb. 6, 2020. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://www.georgetown.edu/news/fossil-fuels-divestment-continues-georgetown-commitment-to-sustainability/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Sustainability%20Announcement%20(1)&utm_content=
- Minyvonne Burke. “Yale-Harvard football game disrupted by climate protesters storming field.” NBC News. Nov. 23, 2019. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/yale-harvard-football-game-interrupted-climate-protesters-storming-field-n1090166
- Nick Engelfried. “How a new generation of climate activists is reviving fossil fuel divestment and gaining victories.” WagingNonviolence.org. March 3, 2020. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://wagingnonviolence.org/2020/03/climate-activists-reviving-fossil-fuel-divestment/
- Connor Dale. “TCA rallies, petitions for divestment from fossil fuel industry.” Tufts Daily. Feb. 13, 2020. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://tuftsdaily.com/news/2020/02/13/tca-rallies-petitions-divestment-fossil-fuel-industry/
- “Alyssa Lee.” Divest Ed. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://www.betterfutureproject.org/alyssadlee
- “Our Staff.” Divest Ed. Accessed July 20, 2020. https://divested.betterfutureproject.org/our-staff