The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) joined Yale and Harvard in rejecting the demand of a student-led group to divest its investment in fossil fuels. Approximately 5% of MIT’s $13.5 billion Endowment is invested in fossil-fuel companies.
MIT announced initiatives to strengthen its collaboration with the energy industry to combat climate change instead of divesting its fossil-fuel investments.
MIT’s five-year plan for action on climate change includes bolstering environment research and cutting the carbon footprint of its campus.
“In our judgement, the deliberate public act of divestment would entangle MIT in a movement whose core tactic is large-scale public shaming. This would retard rather than encourage the open collaboration and ability to hear new ideas that are central to our research relationships, central to our ability to help government and business think creatively together, and central to our ability to convene and inform the thinking of those with opposing views,” according to MIT.
MIT treated the divestment issue “very seriously”
In a separate interview with The Tech, Maria T. Zuber, vice president of research at MIT said, “We treated [the divestment matter] very seriously. We thought very hard about whether we should divest from something, anything, some things.”
She emphasized that the problem of climate change is huge, and they concluded that MIT cannot resolve the issue alone. According to her, engaging with the energy industry is critical to developing solutions. Ms. Zuber added that disengaging or divesting “would hinder our ability ti convene all of these people at the same table.”
In March, MIT President Rafael Reif joined the Board of Directors of Alcoa, one of the 200 publicly-traded companies targeted in the divestment campaign led by 350.org, an advocacy group. Mr. Reif said his role in Alcoa had nothing to do with the decision of the university.
“This decision was driven by one objective only: to solve the problem of climate change. Solving the problem means engagement,” stressed Mr. Reif. “There is room and reason for each of us to be part of the solutionI urge everyone to join us in rising to this historical challenge,” he added.
“Business as usual repackaged”
Harvard and Yale also rejected the demands of activists to divest investment in fossil fuels. Both universities decided to take steps to reduce carbon output on campus.
Geoffrey Supran, a student with Fossil Free MIT, the group leading the divestment campaign on campus, described the university’s decision as a“business-as-usual repackaged.” He said, “MIT has put money before morals and its students’ futures.”
According to Mr. Supran, a majority of the members of a university group, which was established by Mr. Reif, recommended the divesting MIT’s investments in coal and oil-sands companies this year.