Following the passage of a student referendum in support of fossil fuel divestment last spring, the Harvard Law School student government called for action on the issue in a pair of letters delivered to University President Drew G. Faust and Law School Dean Martha L. Minow Thursday afternoon.
Lisa M. Lana, president of the Law School Student Representative Board, wrote the letters to Faust and Minow calling upon the Harvard community to “take responsibility for the social and political repercussions of its investment in fossil fuels.” As of Monday night, neither Faust nor Minow had responded to the letters.
In her letter to Faust, Lana mentioned Faust’s absence at a previous forum on divestment, asking that she “engage with students now on this important issue.”
“We’re hoping to join the conversation, and we’re calling on the president to at least engage in conversation with the students about this,” Lana said. “We’re hoping for at least the president to see that we are on board with this movement.”
Through a spokesperson, Faust declined to comment and referred The Crimson to a letter she wrote to the Harvard community in October to reaffirm and explain the University’s stance against fossil fuel divestment.
“I, as well as members of our Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility, have benefited from a number of conversations in recent months with students who advocate divestment from fossil fuel companies,” Faust wrote in the letter. “While I share their belief in the importance of addressing climate change, I do not believe, nor do my colleagues on the Corporation, that university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is warranted or wise."
In her letter to Minow, Lana asked the Dean to support the student body “in our efforts to divest University funds from fossil fuel companies.” Minow did not respond to a request for comment.
The letters were inspired by a referendum conducted by the SRB last spring. In a poll that represented approximately 40 percent of the Law School student body, 67 percent of voters supported an initiative that called for the University “to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and divest from all ownership of the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies within five years.”
In both letters, Lana included information about the referendum and the evolution of divestment at Harvard, drawing connections between the fossil fuel divestment movement and Harvard’s previous decisions to divest. These decisions included divesting from tobacco corporations in the 1990s as well as certain companies tied to South African apartheid and genocide in Sudan.
Jacob E. Lipton, a third-year student at the Law School who is involved in the divestment movement that spearheaded the referendum, said that while he hopes the letters will inspire action from the University, he doubts that they will.
“The dream would be that Dean Minow would come out and say that it’s the position of Harvard Law School that it supports divestment,” he said. “That’s unlikely.”
Nonetheless, Lipton said that he remains optimistic about the divestment movement at large.
“This is just a first stage, and every divest movement from apartheid to tobacco have originally been met by a lot of opposition from the administration and then become successful,” Lipton said. “I think students are going to continue to press on and finish this.”
—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: November 18, 2013
An earlier version of the headline accompanying this article misspelled the last name of Law School Dean Martha L. Minow.