Harvard University Pressured To Divest From Fossil Fuels

Tensions rose on the Harvard University campus when students vocalized their belief that the Ivy League school should no longer invest in companies that produce oil, gas, and coal. Students have led protests, filed lawsuits, and facilitated sit-ins in key administrative buildings. The campus’ fervor has even extended out to alumni and other college campuses. Harvard, however, has remained unfazed in their position.

Per the Huffington Post, the suit was filed by a group of seven students in 2014 in an effort to urge the Ivy League institution to stop investing in companies they feel are playing a major role in global warming. Furthermore, the suit claims that Harvard has violated its duties by putting profit ahead of the threat of climate change. The hearing, which will focus on Harvard’s attempt to dismiss the suit, is scheduled for this Friday.

According to Ted Hamilton, a Harvard Law student, “Regardless of the final decision in our case, presenting our claims in a legal arena forces the Harvard Corporation to defend its actions in furtherance of climate change.”

Preceding the court hearing by approximately a week, Divestment Harvard (DH), an on-campus group, led a student sit-in inside of the administration building last Thursday. Part of the movement to steer away from companies producing fossil fuels, the sit-in was meant to pressure the University even more. Co-coordinator of DH, Jasmine Opie, stated that the group and its supporters do not expect divestment to “bankrupt fossil fuel companies.” It is much more of a political tactic.

“It’s essentially a political tactic to say that what the fossil fuel companies are doing is dangerous and reprehensible.”

Per the Boston Globe, approximately 200 members of Harvard’s faculty have signed an open letter to the president urging the institution to reconsider its stance.

However, not everyone on the University’s campus supports the movement. In an opinion piece featured in the student-run newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, it stated that opposition to the views and actions of the DH group is felt in the student body. The piece specifies that “Harvard’s place is to be a university: an institution of teaching, learning, research and collaboration.” In that, the article expresses that DH’s protests are “radical” and have “no logical end” given the University’s firm stance.

Nevertheless, eliminating fossil fuels from investment plans appears to be a growing trend among institutions of higher learning. Universities and colleges across the nation, such as Hampshire College, Stanford University, and Pitzer College have pledged to remove fossil fuel producing companies from their investment plans. Divestment from fossil fuels may very well be an integral part of the future of higher education.

[Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images]