Student groups KKR Kills and Divest 5Cs have organized three rallies and a vigil in opposition to Claremont McKenna College’s affiliation with and acceptance of over $100 million from trustees Henry Kravis and George Roberts.They have called for the removal of Kravis and Roberts from the Board of Trustees due to their investment in fossil fuels and support for the construction of pipelines on indigenous land. The two student groups have also asked CMC to #RemoveTheirNames and #UnKKRCMC. These slogans call for the removal of Kravis’ and Roberts’ names from CMC buildings, as a means of divorcing CMC’s reputation from KKR’s investment in natural gas pipelines.
Divest 5Cs is a socially-focused group “calling for the Claremont Colleges to divest their endowments from fossil fuels.” Similarly, KKR Kills, a grassroots campaign, advocates for the “Wet’suwet’en and Yaqui resisting pipelines owned by CMC trustees Kravis and Roberts.”
The private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR & Co.), formerly headed by co-chiefs and Claremont McKenna College alumni Kravis and Roberts, has a 65 percent equity interest in TC Energy Corporation and a 20 percent stake in Sempra Energy. The Coastal GasLink Pipeline (CGL Pipeline), headed by TC Energy Corporation, travels from northeastern British Columbia to Kitimat, B.C., cutting through territory occupied by twenty First Nations people, including the Wet’suwet’en First Nation. The Agua Prieta pipeline, operated by Sempra Energy, spans from Arizona to the Mexican states of Sonora and Sinaloa, cutting through Yaqui territory.
The first Solidarity Rally occurred on October 5th. Students protested Kravis’ and Roberts’ perpetuation of “colonial violence and climate catastrophe” by denouncing their stakes in TC Energy and Sempra Energy. 150 students stood outside of Roberts Pavilion, a $70 million 5C community and varsity athletics fitness center funded by Roberts. Students displayed banners decrying KKR’s investments and declaring support for the Wet’suwet’en and the Yaqui.
Following the first rally, on Monday, October 11, Kravis (77) and Roberts (78) resigned as co-CEOs after 45 years in the firm. They will be succeeded by Scott Nuttall and Joe Bae. In an instagram post, KKR Kills announced that Kravis and Roberts resigned from KKR six days after the first rally, although they initiated their succession plan in 2017. KKR Kills also deleted the comments and blocked the accounts of first-generation, low-income students of color criticizing the post.
KKR Kills hosted a second rally, the #AllOutForWedzinKwa Solidarity Rally, on October 14, nine days after the first protest. Students demanded that KKR call for a suspension of the CGL pipeline construction. Otherwise, KKR Kills stated “if Henry Kravis and George Roberts continue to own CGL and attempt genocidal acts, then their names must be removed from the buildings,” in an Instagram post. Students first met outside The Kravis Center, a 162,000-sq-ft academic and administrative facility made possible by a $75 million donation from Kravis. They listened to a series of orators, and then marched to Roberts Pavilion, where a smaller group of advocates already occupied the upper level of Roberts Pavilion, holding a sign: “All Out for Wedzinkwa.” One student recorded a video of a CMC-Roberts Pavilion employee, who said that the students were in violation of campus policy.
At the conclusion of the speeches outside Roberts Pavilion, the students occupying the upper level of Roberts walked down the stairs and attempted to exit the building, only to find that the automatic doors to Roberts Pavilion were locked. Security personnel within Roberts manually pushed the doors open and let the students out. CMC public safety personnel supervised the entirety of the rallies, ensuring compliance with campus regulations.
Student activists also held a rally on Friday, November 19, demanding that the college remove Roberts’ and Kravis’ names from buildings and monuments at the college. According to one student, protests will continue “[u]ntil Henry Kravis and George Roberts no longer have a place at this college.”
Following the first two rallies, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College (ASCMC), the official student government of CMC, held a conversation on divestment. One member of Divest 5Cs said that “it would be pretty performative for CMC to divest from fossil fuels without reprimanding the genocidal actions [of KKR].” A member of KKR Kills said that “[b]y continuously bringing up the problem…It is showing that [Kravis’ and Roberts’] reputation is being associated with the pipeline.” The Executive Vice President reminded the committee that “[t]he money at KKR is different from the money in our endowment.” Students and faculty continue to disagree on whether delegitimzing Kravis and Roberts as trustees is productive.
Kravis’ and Roberts’ donations to CMC and 5C programs support many first-gen and low-income students. Kravis donated $25 million to the Kravis Opportunity Fund, which covers tuition costs, internship support, health insurance, travel, counseling and advice, career events, and kickoff funds that finance $1,000 in living supplies per semester. Further, Roberts donated $25 million to data science as a part of the Roberts Foundation-Computer Science Endowment Matching Initiative. The Roberts CS Match finances new science programs, collaborations with Harvey Mudd College, and the Student Imperative scholarship fund. Beyond Claremont, Kravis founded the Henry Kravis Leadership Institute, which sponsors leadership training and awards the Henry Kravis Leadership Prize to noteworthy leadership in nonprofits. Roberts founded REDF, which promotes skill training and job development.
At 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, October 27 at the Parents Field adjacent to Roberts Pavilion, KKR Kills hosted a “vigil in solidarity with Loma de Bácum and for freedom for Fidencio Aldama.” Loma de Bácum, a community of the Yaqui located in Sonoma, has initiated a political and legal battle against the Agua Prieta pipeline, which has endured armed uprisings by pro-pipeline authorities, one of which resulted in one death. Aldama is a Yaqui political prisoner who was convicted of the murder, which many Yaqui attribute to his involvement in the Traditional Guard, a group opposed to the pipeline. In an Instagram post, KKR Kills recognized Aldama as a “STRONG, outspoken Yaqui water and land defender who has resisted the Sonora pipeline from the beginning.”
October 27 marked the fifth year of Aldama’s fifteen years and six months prison sentence. 80 students attended the vigil. After the vigil, KKR Kills issued an Instagram statement clarifying their moral intentions: “We stand against Kravis and Roberts colonial and violent control over natural resources, and do not believe they should be in a position to commit these genocidal acts. We believe this issue is bigger than two individuals, that it fits in a broader pattern of Capitalism, Colonialism, and Imperialism. Dismantling these systems of repression begins with exposing their genocidal acts and organizing dismantling their power at CMC.”