Divest Harvard

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In light of the recent predictions made by the IPCC as to the proliferation of climate violence; in response to the National Climate Assessment’s call to make substantial and sustained reductions in our use of fossil fuels; and recognizing the part Harvard plays in an interconnected, global economy, we are calling on Harvard to completely divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

In the UC referendum this November, 71.4% of Harvard students voted in favor of this proposal, affirming the imminent need to address climate change. Yet the Harvard administration has refused to consider divestment. A letter sent by Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice (HUEJ) to President Bacow over a month ago asking to meet about the issue went unanswered—twice—and when HUEJ members independently met with President Bacow during his office hours, he casually dismissed divestment. Now is the time for action. If Harvard divests, we show the country and world that we refuse to be complicit in the fossil fuel industry's continued war on human and environmental health. That's why we need as many voices as possible calling on President Bacow, the Harvard Corporation, and the Harvard Management Company to take serious climate action. We are ready to meet with them to discuss pathways for divestment. By signing this petition, you are asking Harvard to divest from the fossil fuel industry and signing onto our open letter to President Bacow (see below).  


Dear President Bacow,

We would like to introduce ourselves as the Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice. One of our members, Eva Rosenfeld, wrote to you early this semester regarding the university’s thoughts on fossil fuel divestment. After hearing your installation address, we are hopeful about the strong investment in the “goodness” of Harvard you expressed:

To me, the goodness of Harvard—and of all of our universities—lies in the three essential values we represent: truth, or, as we say here, veritas; excellence; and opportunity.

We share these values and would like to see Harvard more fully realize them not only as an institution of higher education but also as a financial institution with considerable social influence. The University’s continued investment in unsustainable industries undermines our shared vision of Harvard as a forward-looking and ethically responsible institution.

With a federal administration working to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord and roll back important environmental regulations, there are few structures in place to limit the dangerous practices of the fossil fuel industry. Regarding Harvard’s investment in this industry, the Harvard Management Corporation claims exerting “economic pressure for social purposes … could entail serious risks to the independence of the academic enterprise and the ideal of free inquiry.” But with the genuine risk of climate change beyond question, the most serious threat to the academic enterprise lies in ignoring the sources of funding that compromise the progress of free inquiry itself. We feel the university’s narrow focus on short-term gains—in addition to being economically untenable in the long-term—fails to uphold its moral and social commitments.

For these reasons, we ask whether the Harvard Management Company might recognize research by our school’s own world-leading scientists, to consider the urgent crises of environmental racism, resource scarcity, wildfire and coastal flooding, as presenting the same moral responsibilities that were upheld in the case of the Darfur genocide, tobacco, and South African Apartheid.

As Harvard’s new president, you bring a new voice and vision to Harvard’s role in climate reform. In the pages of the Crimson, you expressed a hope to consider the ethical responsibility of the university regarding climate change. At Tufts, you supported measures to reduce carbon emissions. Given this history, we would like to set up a meeting in order to speak to you about your thoughts on divestment and possibilities for moving forward together in the fight against climate change. Kindly let us know when you might be available to meet in the near future.


Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice