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Barnard's board of trustees unanimously voted on Wednesday to create a Presidential Task Force on Divestment, a decision that marks the college's first official step toward considering fossil fuel divestment.

The task force will be responsible for creating an in-depth economic analysis report over the next 12 months about the possible paths to divestment that Barnard could take. The report, along with recommendations from the task force, will be presented to the board's Committee on Investments next December and will help inform the committee whether or not to recommend divestment to the full board of trustees.

Barnard President Debora Spar said the task force will be composed of about 12 to 18 faculty members, students, and trustees, and will be formed "as soon as possible" in January.

The decision comes a day after members from Divest Barnard presented a set of suggested next steps, which included the creation of the task force, to the Committee on Investments on Tuesday.

Anna Alonso / Senior Staff Designer

"I think this shows that students do have power and our voices do matter at the end of the day, and it's a matter of working hard enough to make our voices heard," Divest Barnard co-founder Evelyn Mayo, BC '18, said. "I think that this is a really exciting opportunity to build a better relationship with the board between students going forward."

"I thought it was a great session. The students did a terrific job," Spar said.

But Divest Barnard co-founder Helen Cane, BC '17, said that the group will still need to work to ensure that the board makes a commitment to fossil fuel divestment in a timely manner.

"Hopefully, this will make it so that this 18-month calendar just takes place. But we can't just rest on our laurels," Cane said. "We have to actively make sure that that calendar is adhered to. Accountability still needs to take place."

Spar said that once the Presidential Task Force is formed, the college will be able to consider the other next steps suggested by Divest Barnard, such as the freezing of future investments in fossil fuels.

"I think a very important conclusion coming out is that we definitely will be asking Investure to work closely with us in coming up with new forms of reporting and metrics," Spar said. "Because we don't have that kind of reporting yet, we actually, we technically can't commit to no further investment."

Still, for members of Divest Barnard, the decision to create the task force is monumental.

"This whole semester, our goal was to get in the room with the board of trustees, and that happened," Mayo said. "That is a big game changer for our campaign because now we are using the administrative channels that have been open to us, and we sincerely hope that they prove to be functional and productive and used to get divestment."

jclara.chan@columbiaspectator.com | @jclarachan

Barnard College board of trustees fossil fuel divestment divest barnard presidential task force
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