During the University’s “Heat Week”, an organized campaign to spark debate regarding climate change and Harvard University’s role in it, a student group called Divest Harvard campaigned to have the University’s endowment divest from fossil fuels.
The group was adamant about having the University’s $39.2 billion endowment severe all ties with industries related to the fossil fuel industry. Students, alumni, faculty and environmental advocates, attended the event which hosted a series of speakers that shared a common goal of having Harvard become actively involved in climate change efforts. Gina McCarthy, a professor of the practice of public health and former administrator of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency exclaimed “I disagree very strongly with the position of the Harvard Corporation to not eliminate investment of Harvard dollars in fossil fuels,” she explained. “It is time for Harvard and other Ivy League schools to divest. They know better. Get over it, move forward.”
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This follows a trend of advocacy groups increasing their calls for institutions to part ways with the fossil fuel industry. Last year, one group succeeded in getting the San Francisco Employee’s Retirement System (SFERS) to divest from five fossil fuel companies. The board of the $25.5 billion pension fund claimed that it did not agree with the business model of these four companies.
Harvard University President Lawerence Bacow, however, maintained his position refusing to use the university's endowment as a vehicle for social change. "The endowment exists to support the institution, to support our students, and to support our faculty," Bacow explained. “And it was on those terms that our donors have entrusted the resources to us. They’ve said here, here are these resources which we want you to invest to support these activities—not to accomplish some other ends.” A position that the organizers of “Heat Week” will undoubtedly find unacceptable.