Students march through Pomona's campus.
On Monday, October 30th, the student group Divest Claremont Colleges, in collaboration with the Climate Defense Project, submitted a legal complaint against Pomona College to California Attorney General Rob Bonta. The complaint alleges that the Pomona College endowment’s investment in fossil fuels violates the California Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act.
CA-UPMIFA requires that non-profit corporations with a charitable purpose “consider the charitable purposes of the institution and the purposes of the [endowment].” The law mandates that in managing an endowment, “an asset’s special relationship or special value, if any, to the charitable purposes of the institution [be] considered.” The law explicitly notes that non-profit educational institutions are considered to hold a “charitable purpose.”
The complaint excerpts from Pomona College’s mission statement, which states that the College “will guide [students’] contributions as the next generation of leaders, scholars, artists and engaged members of society to fulfill the vision of the College’s founders: to bear their added riches in trust for all.” According to the complaint, investment in fossil fuels contradicts this mission by contributing to a variety of problems: environmental degradation, pollution’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, climate refugees, threats to indigenous communities’ sovereignty and increased “burden of care work” placed on women.
The law also requires that managers of endowments invest in “good faith and with the care [of] an ordinarily prudent person.” The complaint alleges that “prudent investment practice cannot be squared with the long-term ownership of fossil fuel assets” due to the sector’s alleged recent volatility and poor performance.
In addition to Divest Claremont Colleges and the CDP, the complaint was co-signed by 41 faculty members across the Claremont Colleges and 26 allied organizations.
The complaint’s release was coordinated with activist groups at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, Tufts University, Washington University in St. Louis and Penn State, who all submitted similar complaints to their respective attorneys general. In California, the attorney general is not required to respond to legal complaints, but Alex Marquardt, executive director of the CDP, told The Student Life that CDP will request a meeting if no action is taken.
Representatives of Pomona College did not respond to a request for comment.