Divest Harvard Holds “Teach-Ins” Outside Massachusetts Hall

Divest Harvard
Benjamin Franta, a Harvard Graduate School student, and Alli Whelton ‘15 discuss the carbon budget and fossil fuel reserves at their rally in Harvard Yard on Tuesday afternoon.

Students and members of Divest Harvard gathered in front of Massachusetts Hall Tuesday afternoon for a series of “teach-ins” conducted to reveal ways in which they believe the fossil fuel industry creates climate denialism and interferes with clean energy initiatives.

The “teach-ins” were organized by Divest Harvard as a response to President Drew G. Faust’s statement in the organization’s recently published video in which the group’s Student Outreach Co-Chair Alli J. Welton ’15 challenged the University’s stance on divestment. Massachusetts Hall is the home of the University’s central administration and contains Faust’s office.

On Monday, Faust issued an email response to the group, saying that she was disappointed by the way the group handled the video confrontation and reiterating the University’s commitment to sustainability initiatives apart from divestment.

Divest Harvard Faculty Coordinator Benjamin Franta, a graduate student who worked with Welton to organize the sit-ins, said that he believed Faust denied the political power of the fossil fuel industry in the video. He said he found this surprising because the influence of the fossil fuel industry in blocking clean energy initiatives is “well-documented.”

“There has been some dispute on what she actually meant,” Franta said in reference to Faust’s email response. However, he added that based on the video alone, “There’s a clear interpretation of what she meant.”

Franta said that the group would like Faust to “clear this up and actually talk about this important issue.”

The event consisted of three “teach-ins” that covered topics including fossil fuel companies’ expansive carbon reserves, the influence of these companies in financing political campaigns, and statistics of the University’s carbon usage. According to Welton, over the course of the afternoon, over 60 people stopped to listen to the group speak.

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