Media Room

Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2015
Contact: Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-890-3350
Photos: www.flickr.com/photos/350org/sets/72157651518619409/

Divestment Activists Declare Harvard Heat Week a Success, Plan Next Steps for the Growing Campaign

Cambridge, MA — Divest Harvard, along with their alumni, faculty, and community supporters, celebrated the culmination of a week of protest in Harvard Yard this Friday evening with a rally that drew over 500 people from neighboring schools and across the Boston area.

“This week was incredibly powerful,” said Sima Atri, a student leader with Divest Harvard. “The movement for divestment on campus has never been stronger. But we’re not done yet, because the climate crisis requires continued action, and students at Harvard are going to keep up the pressure until our university divests from fossil fuels.”

Students from BC, BU, MIT, Northwestern, Tufts, Amherst, and as far away as McGill, cheered and whooped as speakers rallied the crowd. Community members talked about divestment efforts in Somerville, Cambridge, and beyond, while State Representative Marjorie Decker pledged to keep up momentum for divestment at the state level.

Divest Harvard and alumni supporters launched their sit-in at the doors of Massachusetts Hall last Sunday evening, blocking President Faust and other administration officials from proceeding with business as usual. Students slept outside each night to maintain the blockade, and hosted rallies, teach-ins, and homework sessions throughout the days. Over the course of the week, protest spread to Harvard Alumni Affairs, where alumni spent two nights sleeping in office and pledged not to donate until the university divests.

Prominent Harvard alumni, including Sen. Tim Wirth, director Darren Aronofsky, actor Natalie Portman, and architect Maya Lin supported the week of action. Thousands of alumni have signed onto petitions calling for divestment. On Thursday, Divest Harvard picked up another powerful endorsement, this time from Harvard overseer Kat Taylor ‘80.

“I’ve watched as other schools, from Stanford to Syracuse, have joined institutions like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund or the United Church of Christ in divesting,” said Taylor. “l remain hopeful that Harvard will one day join that list and be the beacon to applicants, students, faculty, and the global community that the world has come to expect.”

Far from Harvard, Edinburgh University also added its heft to the cause this week, pledging to divest from coal and tar sands. In another sign of how quickly divestment is becoming mainstream, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim congratulated student campaigners and reiterated his acknowledgement that 80 percent of fossil fuels must stay in the ground.

Back on campus, more than 250 faculty have signed onto a letter calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels. At a faculty sponsored forum on Friday afternoon, professors from the Kennedy School, Business School, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences lambasted Harvard for its lack of action and refusal to open up a serious discussion about divestment on campus.

Earlier on Friday morning, Dr. Cornel West joined students at the sit-in at Massachusetts Hall to lend his voice to the cause. “We’re fighting against injustice. We have to get a handle on the impending ecological catastrophe,” said West, addressing Harvard President Drew Faust. “Doctor Faust, we now have a planetary Selma. We want you on the right side.”

The protests and growing support for divestment clearly got the attention of the Harvard administration. After days of protest, President Drew Faust emailed a student leader of Divest Harvard on Thursday to offer a closed door meeting with select representatives from the group, but only if students would stop their actions on campus. Students responded by welcoming a negotiation about divestment, but said they wouldn’t put a moratorium on protest as long as Harvard continued to invest in fossil fuels.

To the contrary, students are celebrating the ways in which their direct action has served to build support for the divestment cause on campus. Over the course of Heat Week, hundreds of students took part in the ongoing sit-in, protests, and demonstrations. On Thursday, nearly 300 students joined hands around iconic University Hall to show their support for the cause.

“This week, Divest Harvard not only disrupted business as usual at Harvard University, but we also demonstrated that we are creating a vision for a different kind of university, one where we are responsible for our actions and role in the world,” said Chloe Maxmin, co-founder of Divest Harvard.

While Harvard Heat Week has officially come to end, students with Divest Harvard, and their legions of alumni, faculty and community supporters, are already plotting their next steps, vowing to keep up the pressure on Harvard until the university responds with concrete steps towards divestment.

Meanwhile, similar divestment protests are sweeping other university and college campuses across the country, from Tulane, where 70 students occupied their President’s office this week, the University of California, where students across the system are escalating their demands for action.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2015
Contact: Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-890-3350

Divest Harvard Responds to President Drew Faust’s Meeting Offer

Cambridge, MA — In an email to student divestment leaders, Harvard President possibly opened the door for divestment just a crack-or rather, had the door opened for her. After a week of sit-ins that have shut down administration offices at Massachusetts Hall, President Faust finally reached out directly to students with Divest Harvard, offering to meet with two representatives from the group. (The full email exchange is below).

”I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations,” wrote President Faust, in an email that she also forwarded to press.

The offer of another closed door meeting is a direct contrast to the open process on divestment that schools like MIT have convened. Divest Harvard has repeatedly requested a more transparent process that involves the entire student body, which voted 72% in favor of divestment, and the hundreds of faculty and thousands of alumni who have signed letter supporting the initiative.

“Thank you very much for your email,” wrote Divest Harvard in a response. “We appreciate the opportunity to meet with you. A team of students, faculty, and alumni would like to sit down with you and representatives of the Corporation at a meeting to formally negotiate about Harvard’s divestment.”

Divest Harvard also explained that there would be no moratorium put on protesting while Harvard continued to invest in fossil fuel companies. Currently, Harvard is on the opposite track: recent SEC filings revealed that the university septupled its investments in oil and gas companies last fall.

“Assuming that Harvard will continue in the meantime to invest in fossil fuels, we will continue to act with the full support of the movement that you have seen this week. This is what the urgent climate crisis requires,” they continued. “After three years, we are glad to hear that you are interested in having a productive discussion about divestment. We look forward to moving this process forward.”

In a clear sign of progress, Divest Harvard picked up a powerful endorsement this afternoon, with Harvard Overseer Kat Taylor ’82 releasing a statement in support of divestment.

Hundreds of students from surrounding area colleges are expected to join Harvard activists tomorrow evening for a rally to close out the week of sit-ins on campus. Events will take place at Massachusetts Hall at 10:00am tomorrow and at the Science Center plaza at 6:00pm.

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1. Full email exchange:

From: “Madsen, Lars Peter Knoth”
To: Chloe Maxmin
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2015 2:14 PM
Subject: RE: Event in Emerson

Hi Chloe — Thanks again. Drew wrote you a message, which I have pasted below.

Lars

Dear Chloe,

The sign held by students at Emerson Hall yesterday was the first request I had received for a meeting from your group this week, and I want to respond to that invitation.

As you know from our many previous meetings and from the offer I made when you occupied Mass Hall in February, I am always open to hearing from Harvard students about their thoughts and concerns. I would like to renew the offer I made in February: I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss again our shared belief that climate change is a serious threat as well as the ways universities can most effectively confront it.

I thought I would also share with you the video recording of Monday’s open forum on climate change, where views both for and against the tactic of divestment were expressed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pDb0mPyedk

I look forward to meeting you to continue our long series of conversations on this important topic.

Sincerely,
Drew

——-

From: Chloe Maxmin
To: “Madsen, Lars Peter Knoth”
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2015 7:15 PM
Subject: Re: Event in Emerson

Dear President Faust,

Thank you very much for your email. We appreciate the opportunity to meet with you. A team of students, faculty, and alumni would like to sit down with you and representatives of the Corporation at a meeting to formally negotiate about Harvard’s divestment.

Assuming that Harvard will continue in the meantime to invest in fossil fuels, we will continue to act with the full support of the movement that you have seen this week. This is what the urgent climate crisis requires.

After three years, we are glad to hear that you are interested in having a productive discussion about divestment. We look forward to moving this process forward.

Sincerely,

Divest Harvard

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 16, 2014
Contact: Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-890-3350

Harvard Overseer Kat Taylor Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment Effort

Cambridge — The divestment movement at Harvard picked up an important endorsement this morning, with Harvard overseer Kat Taylor (Harvard ’80) adding her voice this afternoon to those calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels. Taylor added her name to an alumni letter to the university and issued the following statement:

“With deep respect for Harvard’s governance process of which I am an elected part, I am signing the divest letter as part of the ongoing efforts to encourage a full and transparent debate about how Harvard should lead on climate across all of its activities — research, teaching, campus practices, and investments. I believe the dire social and environmental consequences of climate change as well as my conscience require this of me and my post.

“I’ve watched as other schools, from Stanford to Syracuse, have joined institutions like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund or the United Church of Christ in divesting. l remain hopeful that Harvard will one day join that list and be the beacon to applicants, students, faculty, and the global community that the world has come to expect.”

Taylor joins a growing list of prominent alumni, public figures, and institutions who are endorsing divestment as a powerful strategy to tackle climate change. Harvard alumni supporting the effort include Desmond Tutu, Sen. Tim Wirth, Natalie Portman, Darren Aronofsky, and others. Just this week, World Bank President Jim Kim commended the divestment effort, saying he was “impressed” by the advocacy on campus. UN Secretary Christiana Figueres also recently endorsed the effort, calling on her alma mater, Swarthmore, to “play its part in history” and divest. Yesterday, Edinburgh University announced it was close to divesting from coal and tar sands.

“This is one more clear sign that opinion is shifting, and fast,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben, Harvard class of 1982. “Earlier this week the president of the World Bank hailed divestment as a powerful strategy; earlier today a university even older than Harvard (Scotland’s Edinburgh) took a big step down the divestment path. In her work and in this statement, Kat Taylor is a perfect example of Harvard’s best side: looking to the future, caring about the vulnerable, and acting with determination.”

“It’s really inspiring to have our efforts endorsed by someone whose life work so aligns with our goals: social justice and a sustainable future. And it’s striking to see how quickly the logic of divestment shifts the opinions of students, alumni, and faculty,” said Ben Sorscher, a Harvard freshman and Divest Harvard participant. “With the support of such a prominent alumna and Harvard overseer, it’s hard to imagine the rest of the administration won’t start to shift opinions soon, too.”

A prominent philanthropist and beneficial banking and sustainable food system advocate, Kat Taylor has served on many non-profit boards including the Harvard Board of Overseers, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, Insight Prison Project, and KQED. She is a graduate of Harvard College and earned a JD/MBA from Stanford, which last year committed to divest from coal and explore oil and gas divestment.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2015
Contact: Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-890-3350

Wednesday update from Harvard Divestment Protest

Students confront President Faust with silent protest; Alumni end sit-in at Alumni Affairs; Blockade of Massachusetts Hall continues; New figures on Harvard’s climate impact

Cambridge, MA — Fossil fuel divestment sit-ins continued at Harvard today. The events, known as “Harvard Heat Week” have swept the campus since Sunday, when students and alumni with Divest Harvard blockaded the doors of Massachusetts Hall, home to the Office of the President and other administration offices. The group currently plans on maintaining their sit-in until the end of the week.

This afternoon, students confronted Harvard President Drew Faust with a silent protest, standing outside one of her talks with placards and signs calling on the university to break its ties with the fossil fuel industry. Faust has thus far refused to host a public debate about divestment, offering students only off-the-record, closed door meetings that they’ve refused. Students said there aim was “not to disrupt or attack the event…but to confront her with our presence, and by extension, the issue of climate justice.”

“Throughout Harvard Heat week, Harvard’s top decision-makers have been hiding from both their students and from the issue of climate justice,” Divest Harvard students wrote in a statement. “They must face the broad, diverse, and growing coalition behind divestment from fossil fuels. We may not all agree on divestment, but surely we can agree about the vital importance of fairly considering every possible tactic to address the climate crisis.

Hundreds of alumni have joined the Harvard Heat Week protests, representing classes from the 1960’s to the present day. On Monday, a group alumni occupied the offices of Harvard Alumni Affairs hoping to meet with the office’s director, Philip Lovejoy. Receiving no response, they decided to spend the night. Lovejoy responded Tuesday morning, but still refused to meet, so alumni camped out again. On Wednesday morning, Lovejoy appeared with donuts, which protestors gave to their police escort, but advised alumni that if they’d like a meeting they should follow “typical business meeting protocol.” Confident they had made their point, alumni left the office to rejoin the students at Massachusetts Hall.

“Our alumni group got a small taste of what the students have now experienced for two years—a rebuff from University decision-makers who have no apparent willingness to collaborate with concerned segments of the community on this critical issue,” the group said in a statement.

New numbers released this week from the South Pole Group and Fossil Free Indexes underline the massive climate impact of Harvard’s portfolio. South Pole Group concluded that the current CO2 emissions of Harvard’s investments equal 11 million tons of CO2, equivalent to the state of Rhode Island. A different study by Fossil Free Indexes put the emissions from the total reserves owned by Harvard’s portfolio at 100 million tons of CO2, which is equivalent to the emissions from thirty-three 500 megawatt coal fired power plants running for a year.

Divest Harvard students, alumni, faculty and community members will continue their protest throughout the rest of the week. Prof. Cornell West will be speaking alongside movement leaders at Massachusetts Hall at 10:00am on Friday morning. Hundreds are expected to join a closing rally that evening at 6:00pm in Science Center plaza just outside Harvard Yard.

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Earlier Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 14, 2015
Contact: Jamie Henn, jamie@350.org, 415-890-3350

Divestment Protest Expands at Harvard, Students Block Entrances to University Hall, Alumni Occupy More Offices

Photo and video opportunities of student protestors and potential arrests

Media opportunities on Tuesday:

Interview students sitting-in at University Hall and Massachusetts Hall in Harvard Yard
Time: 8:00am to 10:00am
Location: Massachusetts Hall, Harvard Yard, Cambridge

Interview Bill McKibben and alumni occupying Alumni Affairs offices.
Time: 8:45am to 9:00am
Location: 124 Mt. Auburn Street 6th Floor, Cambridge.

Labor and Social Justice Themed Divestment Rally
Time: 10:00am to 12:00pm
Location: Harvard Yard, Cambridge

Cambridge, MA — The fight for fossil fuel divestment is heating up at Harvard this week. On Tuesday morning, students expanded their sit-in, blocking all six entrances of University Hall, while maintaining the currently blockaded three doors of Massachusetts Hall.

Across the square, a group of alumni are still camped out in the Harvard Alumni Association, pushing for a meeting with university representatives. Over fifty alumni tried to meet with Alumni Affairs yesterday afternoon. When the office ignored their requests, nine alumni, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, decided to spend the night inside the locked offices (with a number of Harvard University Police Department officers as their accompaniment). At 9:00pm, they released a letter requesting a meeting with the executive director’s of the Harvard Alumni Association and the Harvard Fund.

“We’re spending the night in the hopes that you will be willing to meet with us in the morning. We know that many other alumni are trying to join us, indeed two are locked out in the hallway right now by a (very professional) police presence,” the alumni wrote. “They feel as we do: that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet then it’s wrong for Harvard to profit from that wreckage. And that the Harvard students who have been the brave leaders in the divestment fight so far deserve the support of us Harvard graduates.”

Media coverage and online traffic for the “Harvard Heat Week” protests grew throughout the day on Monday, with the Boston Globe, Bloomberg, NPR, the Guardian, and others picking up the story.

Harvard continued to feel the heat in an afternoon forum at Sanders Theater that the university organized in response to the protests, intending to distract from divestment and highlight other climate accomplishments. The forum, hosted by talk show host Charlie Rose, did not feature any students or alumni involved in the Heat Week protests, but did include Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes, a historian who has studied the corrosive influence of the fossil fuel industry and is an active proponent of divestment.

“I don’t see how we can have the conversation here and still be investing in fossil fuel companies,” said Oreskes, to boisterous applause from a largely pro-divestment crowd (a poll put 72% of Harvard students in favor of the move). “The fossil fuel industry has worked for twenty years to undermine the work this University has done on climate change. That crosses a line….We are engaged in something deeply problematic and we have to find a way to separate ourselves from that.”

Students, alumni, and supporters are planning to continue their sit-in at Massachusetts Hall for the rest of the week. A solidarity rally will take place each morning at 10:00 am, and a candlelit vigil each evening at 8:00pm. Hundreds are expected to join a closing rally in front of Harvard’s science center at 6:00pm on Friday evening.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2015
Contact: Lindsay Meiman, (914) 844-4950

DAYS OUT FROM HARVARD HEAT WEEK, STUDENTS PREPARE FOR HISTORIC FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT SIT-INS

CAMBRIDGE, MA — Less than a week before students, faculty, alumni, and community members will sit in on the campus of Harvard University for a full week demanding that the school’s endowment divest from fossil fuels, organizers are engaged in large-scale preparations to ensure Harvard Heat Week becomes a historic event. A large kick-off event on Sunday night at the First Parish in Cambridge will launch actions throughout the week with speakers including:

Reverend Lennox Yearwood (founder, Hip-Hop Caucus);
Darren Aronofsky (‘91, film director);
Bill McKibben (‘82, co-founder, 350.org);
Ferrial Adam (Africa - Arab World Team Leader, 350.org)
Koreti Tiumalu (Pacific Coordinator, 350.org)
Former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth (‘61);
Kelsey Wirth (‘92, founder, Mothers Out Front)
Bob Massie (‘89, founder, Investor Network on Climate Risk);
Todd Gitlin (‘63, Author, Professor Columbia University);
Talia Rothstein (Divest Harvard Organizer);
Ted Hamilton (Divest Harvard Organizer); and
Jibreel Khazan (participant in the 1960 Greensboro Woolworth’s Civil
Rights lunch counter sit-ins); with
Performances by Melodeego.
Over 1,100 Harvard alumni, including notable figures such as Natalie Portman, Cornel West, Al Gore, and Bevis Longstreth, have also signed on to a petition urging the administration to divest its fossil fuel holdings, as well as 72% of undergraduate students supporting a referendum vote, over 65,000 community members, and more than 245 faculty members calling for divestment.

This mass support from the Harvard community comes as students on campuses across the country are escalating into nonviolent direct action, asking their administrators “Which Side Are You On?” that of the students for which the endowment exists, or that of the rogue fossil fuel industry that threatens the very future schools prepare their students for.

“We’ve been working around the clock to ensure this movement makes history next week,” said Katie McChesney, an organizer with 350.org. “For too long, Harvard has tried to pretend that they have had no contribution in funding the climate crisis, and that it’s okay for this institution’s money to be complicit in worsening the most pressing global challenge there is. Next week, we’ll do whatever it takes and push this administration closer to finally doing what’s right for our climate.”

For years, organizers at 350.org and Divest Harvard have been pushing the institution to divest its holdings from fossil fuels company, making the case that if it’s wrong for fossil fuel companies to wreck the planet, it’s wrong for others to profit from that wreckage. A commitment to divestment by the oldest university in the U.S. would send a powerful message to the fossil fuel industry and help turn the tide of public opinion against their destructive business model, just as it did when Harvard previously divested from apartheid-era South Africa and the tobacco industry.

President Drew Faust has refused to engage in a productive dialogue on fossil fuel divestment. Organizers are prepared to show Harvard’s administration just how powerful this movement is by turning up the heat.
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Media Contacts

  • Jamie Henn, 350.org Director of Strategy and Communications, jamie@350.org, 415-890-3350 (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Karthik Ganapathy, 350.org U.S. Communications Manager, karthik@350.org, 347-881-3784 (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Lindsay Meiman, 350.org U.S. Communications Coordinator, lindsay@350.org, 914-844-4950 (Brooklyn, NY)