Divestment campaigners turn up the heat on Harvard

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Harvard students are targeting university buildings in a protest against Harvard’s continued investment in fossil fuel companies. On Sunday, roughly 200 students blocked the main door of Massachusetts Hall—the location of Harvard President Drew Faust’s office—as part of Harvard Heat Week. Faust has been a staunch opponent of divesting the university’s $36.4 billion endowment and previously dismissed the tactics of student group Divest Harvard as “coercive.” The group has vowed to blockade Massachusetts Hall until Friday, April 17, and has expanded its demonstration to include the Harvard Alumni Association, where 12 University alumni plan to stay overnight. Actions will continue throughout the week, including activist trainings, student and faculty forums, and daily rallies. The escalation at Harvard is yet another example of the rising confidence of the divestment movement, which argues that institutions need to take a stand on climate change by refusing to bankroll fossil fuels companies. Divestment is veering quickly towards the mainstream as more and more institutions nix their fossil fuel investments and high profile leaders, including the World Bank’s Jim Yong Kim, line up to voice their support.

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RT @GoFossilFree: .@DivestHarvard students & alumni are shutting down business as usual. @Harvard listen to these ppl & #divest!

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Key Points

  • Harvard students are turning up the heat on university administration to divest. For several years, Harvard students, professors, and alumni have been waging a high-profile divestment battle with university leaders. Harvard Heat Week is the biggest escalation yet in the fight to get the world’s richest university to “stand on the right side of history” by selling off its fossil fuel investments.
  • Divestment is a powerful tool for addressing the climate crisis. By removing investments in fossil fuels, institutions can refuse to bankroll fossil fuel companies that are enabling climate change and aggressively lobbying to maintain the dangerous status quo. Divestment campaigns against  tobacco and South African apartheid were successful, and fossil fuel divestment could prove to be even more so. According to an Oxford University study, fossil fuel divestment is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign and could cause significant damage to coal, oil and gas companies.

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Key Quotes

  • “Harvard’s inaction is providing safe cover for those reluctant to change the status quo. As Harvard students, we think our university’s reputation can be used to create positive change, not just harmful passivity… By raising the temperature of debate on campus, we expose the gap between the values of our institution and their actions.” – Ted Hamilton, student at Harvard Law School and organizer with Divest Harvard
  • “Our trust in Harvard is broken. In the face of the climate crisis, Harvard is profiting from the same companies that are undermining the scientific knowledge that is being advanced by this university” – Kelsey Wirth, Harvard alumna and founder of the organization Mothers Out Front
  • “When I was a student back in the 1980s we were trying to get Harvard to divest from apartheid. It’s amazing how similar that fight was to the fight today. To us it was always as clear as day who was on the right side of history.” – Harvard alumnus and director Darren Aronofsky

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