Harvard students push for fossil-fuel divestment

Oil and ivy
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  November 29, 2012


Throughout 350.org's Do the Math tour this month, climate-change warrior Bill McKibben has blasted Harvard, his alma mater, for the school's failure to fully divest from South African companies two decades ago. At sold-out shows in Boston and DC, the enviro-activist and author noted that while more than 150 other colleges pulled investments from the region in protest of apartheid, Harvard stalled — and embarrassed itself further by ironically bestowing an honorary doctoral degree on a liberated Nelson Mandela in 1998.

McKibben wasn't ribbing Harvard just for giggles. Along with groups like the Cambridge-based Better Future Project, 350.org is urging the Ivy League giant — and institutions everywhere — to listen to campus groups like Students for a Just and Stable Future. Since September, Harvard's chapter has been campaigning for the school to divest from the world's top 200 publicly traded oil, coal, and gas corporations. The student body has spoken on the issue; last week, Harvard's Undergraduate Council announced that 72 percent of those casting ballots in the student-government election voted in favor of the divestment.

University president Drew Faust has neglected to address students' calls for Harvard to break ties with polluters. In years past, such inaction has spurred pickets and even sit-ins, but for now campus activists are still pushing for diplomacy. "Now that we've gotten a clear mandate, we're going to try hard to get a meeting with President Faust," says Alli Welton, a sophomore organizing with Students for a Just and Stable Future. "She's so far been unwilling to listen, but if they continue to refuse, we will escalate our tactics and see what we can do to make them meet with us."

$30.7 billion >> The size of Harvard's endowment, the largest of any university in the country.

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