University Leaders To Meet With Student Advocates About Divestment

University leaders will sit down with student advocates of fossil fuel divestment and explore the possibility of creating a social choice fund, senior University officials told The Crimson this week.

“The Corporation has an obligation to listen—to students, to faculty, to other members of the community—because it educates our decisions, but in a community like Harvard you’re never going to have unanimity on anything,” said William F. Lee ’72, a member of the Harvard Corporation—the University’s highest governing body.

Members of the Corporation’s Committee on Shareholder Responsibility will meet with students next semester who over the course of the fall have advocated for the University to divest its more than $30 billion endowment from fossil fuels.

When the issue was offered as a referendum during Undergraduate Council elections last month, 72 percent of undergraduates who voted supported divestment.

Although the University will meet with student representatives, University President Drew G. Faust said it was “unlikely” that Harvard would change its investment strategy as a result of the conversation.

“My argument would be that our most effective impact on climate change is not going to come through any kind of divestment activity,” Faust said. “It’s going to come through what we do with our teaching, our research, the people...we support, the students who may be the heads of the EPA or all kinds of organizations.”

In addition, Corporation members said the University is entertaining the creation of a social choice fund—a fund to which alumni could donate that would be invested with an eye towards Socially Responsible Investment. SRI encourages the incorporation of environmental, social, and governance concerns into the evaluation of investments.

“The desire to see a social choice fund at Harvard is a topic that began coming up with increasing frequency in my conversations with students and alumni last spring, and it led me to suggest to the Corporation that we explore the possibility of creating such a fund,” said Faust in a statement. “We are in the process of examining how such funds are managed at other institutions to learn more about best practices and to determine whether a similar approach makes sense for Harvard.”

—Check TheCrimson.com for updates.

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at hrouse@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.

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