CAMBRIDGE, MA — On Thursday morning, over 40 supporters of the Divest Harvard campaign entered Harvard’s Massachusetts Hall and refused to leave.
The students are occupying the building, which houses the offices of President Drew Faust and other members of the Harvard Administration, in order to ask that Harvard divest its $36.5 billion endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies.
“By investing in the fossil fuel industry, Harvard undermines its intellectual and moral integrity,” said Harvard undergraduate and sit-in participant Canyon Woodward ‘15. “It is a sad irony that Harvard funds its researchers by ignoring the implications of their findings.”
The sit-in action is also taking place in support of Global Divestment Day, which will occur on Feb. 13 and 14. [For more background to Harvard student occupation see:]
“By investing in fossil fuel companies, Harvard jeopardizes the future of its students and the world,” added Sima Atri, a third-year student at Harvard Law School. “Our action today is not just about climate change, but about larger issues of injustice. We refuse to stay silent as Harvard profits from business practices that are causing disproportionate harms on already marginalized communities.”
The Divest Harvard campaign, now two years active, is part of a growing movement. On more than 500 campuses across the United States, students and faculty have organized to demand that their endowments divest from fossil fuels. At Harvard, too, the movement grows. In the Harvard Undergraduate Council elections of November, 2012, 2,561 Harvard undergraduates voted in favor of a referendum expressing support for divestment; of the 55 percent of undergraduates who voted on the referendum, 72 percent voted yes. As of November, 2014, 1,031 Harvard alumni and 213 Harvard faculty have signed petitions asking the University to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.
Despite student, faculty, and alumni opinion, the Harvard Administration has repeatedly refused requests for open debate on divestment, holding meetings with trustees behind closed doors and making public statements that
dismiss student concerns about the dangerous political influence of fossil fuel corporations. On May 1, 2014, supporters of the Divest Harvard campaign organized a blockade of Massachusetts Hall in an attempt to win an open meeting with Harvard trustees to discuss fossil fuel divestment. The trustees declined to meet, and the Harvard University Police Department dispersed the blockade. Harvard undergraduate Brett Roche, ‘15, was arrested.
“It’s immoral for Harvard not to do everything in its power to address climate change,” said Rory Stewart, a Harvard graduate student and sit-in participant. “By not divesting, it’s showing that the interest in the University endowment is strictly for financial gain and not for its own future, the future of its students, and the future of our planet.”
Harvard currently holds $79.5 million in the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies. Supporters of the Divest Harvard Campaign, both inside and outside of Massachusetts Hall, ask that Harvard reduce those holdings to zero.
“We will be disruptive. We will disrupt university operations just as the act of not divesting is disrupting our future,” said Annie Schugart, a Harvard undergraduate student and sit-in participant. “We feel obligated to be disruptive for as long as it takes to achieve divestment, for the sake of our future.”
Global Climate Change