October 7, 2013
Harvard University, which has the world’s largest college endowment valued at $32.7 billion, has decided to continue its investment in fossil fuels, despite heavy pressure from environmental activists.
The announcement comes after the August hire of Jameela Pedicini as Harvard’s first vice president for sustainable investment, a position created following a student-led activist campaign demanding the school divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies.
In a letter posted on Harvard‘s
website, the college’s president Drew Faust says despite numerous conversations with students criticizing the university’s fossil fuel investments and her own belief in the “importance” of addressing climate change, she and the university’s corporation committee on shareholder responsibility have agreed that divestment from the fossil fuel industry would be neither “warranted or wise.”
Faust’s argument against divestment hinges on Harvard’s existence as an educational institution rather than an advocacy platform. The funds in the endowment, Faust says, were given to Harvard by benefactors seeking to advance academic aims, not to serve other purposes, “however worthy.” As a result, those in charge of the investments maintain a “strong presumption” against divesting investment assets for reasons unrelated to the endowment’s financial strength, Faust writes.