More Militarism from Mountain Justice

MJ members taking over the May 4 Board of Managers meeting

Mountain Justice (MJ), the environmental group “dedicated to moving Swarthmore College’s endowment out of the fossil fuel industry” is doubling down on the militant tactics it demonstrated last spring. As we reported yesterday, Gil Kemp ‘72, the chairman of the Board of Managers, released an open letter that stated the Board’s official opposition to the divestment scheme. Outrageously, prominent MJ member Nathan Graf ’16 told the Swarthmore Phoenix that the group is planning an “escalated” response. It’s unsettling to imagine what he has in mind.

Mountain Justice’s overthrow of the May 4 board meeting was so disrespectful of other students and faculty that the nationally syndicated economist, Thomas Sowell, labeled its members “campus barbarians.” Undeterred, Graf promises to “interrupt business as usual.” He goes on to say, “Expect more of the same general framework, but with the scale escalated. We’ve tried going through the institutional channels and it hasn’t worked.” Graf can be heard using almost identical language and making similar threats in this segment of the May 4 takeover. Apparently, MJ activists still consider stunts like the overthrow of the Board meeting and a refusal to listen to Board members as “going through the institutional channels.”

The Board has estimated that divestment would cost the College $10 to 15 million per year. While that number is a little more than half of what the board had initially projected, it is still an incredible amount of money to waste on a purely symbolic protest against fossil fuels. By threatening the healthy endowment necessary for generous financial aid, divestment is an attack on Swarthmore’s socioeconomic diversity—an irony that MJ’s far-left activists consistently fail to understand. Kate Aronoff ’14 repeats the MJ party line that the group “will not accept a plan for divestment that impacts financial aid,” without recognizing that the idea of divestment itself would undermine investment and scholarships.

According to the Phoenix, MJ enthusiasts say they are frustrated that the Board ignored their request for a “full report” on what the process of divestment would involve. They can’t be serious. On top of over 20 meetings with MJ members, the Board offered MJ the rare opportunity to host an open, campus-wide meeting in May and listened respectfully—in our opinion, far too passively—while MJ usurped the meeting’s moderator. Moreover, the board commissioned a specific study of the cost of divestment and was transparent about how they reached that calculation. Mr. Kemp’s September 11 letter was extraordinarily civil. He listed a number of alternative ways in which the College is responding to climate change. No other campus club in institutional memory has received this kind of indulgence from the Swarthmore administration. Time and time again, MJ’s members have proven to be downright petulant.

By continuing to beleaguer the Board and threatening more illiberal protests, Mountain Justice’s members have become a national embarrassment to Swarthmore. It’s time for MJ’s diehards to move on.



  1. I have a lot of thoughts on the opinions you expressed (obviously) and would be interested in getting a meal with you at some point to talk about them, as comments can be a tricky medium for expressing opinions. There is that slightly sticky difficulty that I actually don’t know who you are. I trust you can contact me through email though?
    (of course, feel free to decline if you’d rather not. )

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