Harvard Students Blockade University President’s Office in Demand for Divestment Meeting
Cambridge, Mass. - Demanding an open meeting with Harvard University President Drew Faust to discuss the school’s investments in fossil-fuel related industries, which they say has been denied to them since the fall, protestors blockaded her office on Wednesday.
Six members of student and faculty group Divest Harvard began the blockade of Massachusetts Hall at 6 a.m., and they were joined by around 200 demonstrators for a rally later in the morning.
The group is demanding that Harvard relinquish its investments in industries they say are directly contributing to climate change and the subsequent environmental threats to people around the world.
Gabriel Bayard, a member of the group, spoke out at the rally saying, “the reality is, the working class, the poor people of the world are the most affected by climate change, they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of Harvard’s inaction, and that is why we fight, so when Harvard says we have great labor relations on campus, we pay workers well here, I say the workers of the world demand that you divest for their future, for our future.”
Bayard added that, “just because Harvard has good things on campus, does not mean it can absolve itself of its responsibility off campus,” referring to the ongoing labor and environmental issues at the Doubletree Hotel in Cambridge, and a timber plantation in Argentina, both of which are Harvard-owned.
According to a press statement issued by the group, “A broad swath of the Harvard community has been calling for fossil fuel divestment for over two years, including a 72% vote of support during student government elections and the recent publication of a strongly-worded letter from over 100 faculty.
“However, the administration has repeatedly refused requests for open debate on divestment, holding meetings with trustees behind closed doors and making public statements that dismiss student concerns about the dangerous political influence of fossil fuel corporations,” the statement continues.
In a press statement given to Open Media Boston, a spokesperson for Harvard University says, “President Faust, other members of the Harvard Corporation, and representatives of Harvard Management Company have discussed these issues on many occasions, including multiple meetings with Divest Harvard.”
It says that, “President Faust wrote to the community last fall to reflect on why the Corporation does not consider divestment from the fossil fuel industry to be the appropriate means for Harvard, as an academic institution, to address the risks of climate change,” adding that the university’s “focus remains on how our programs of research and education can best contribute to accelerating the transition to renewable sources of energy,” and “sustainability.”
Bob Massie, the president of the New Economy Coalition based in Cambridge, Mass. spoke at the rally saying, “I want you to remember this day, and I want to remember this moment, because we are standing at the fulcrum of history, we have a special obligation to all the generations that came before, and to all the generations that are coming after us.
“Depending on what we do, depending on what this university does, the world as we know it will live or die,” he continues.
Massie claims that “the president of Harvard university has told us of all the great things she wants to do as a way of concealing the things she does not want to do, which is to sever the ties with the companies that are committed to our destruction, she does not want to end the flow of profits and the ties of ownership, which bind us to the world’s assassins.”
According to a subsequent press release by Divest Harvard, the blockade of the university president's office continued on Thursday morning, and resulted in the arrest of junior student Brett Roche by police on campus.