Harvard’s Divestment History

1972: Students take over Mass. Hall for several days to protest Harvard’s ownership of Gulf Oil. Harvard eventually divests.

1972: The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (ACSR) is created to advise the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility (CCSR) on issues of ethical investing. The ACSR is made up of 12 members—four students (one undergraduate), four faculty, and four alumni. The CCSR agrees with the ACSR 80% of the time.

1978: Harvard divests from South African companies but not companies with investments in South Africa.

1979: President Bok defends the 1978 decision in an open letter. Bok writes that “total divestment would almost certainly cause the University to divert millions of dollars in pursuit of a strategy that is legally questionable, widely disputed on its merits, and very likely to prove ineffective in achieving its objectives.”

1986: After Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls on Harvard to divest from South Africa, a semester of protest ensues. Activists build shanties in Harvard Yard, and Harvard eventually divests from several other companies with ties to South Africa.

1990: Harvard divests from tobacco companies.

Sept. 17, 2002: Sixty-five professors sign a petition calling for the University to divest from Israel. President Summers rejects the petition, saying in a speech that any calls for divestment from Israel are “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent.”

April 4, 2005: After considerable student pressure, Harvard announces it will divest from PetroChina, a firm linked to the genocide in Darfur. In doing so, the Corporation points to Bok’s writings and upholds the precedent of “a strong presumption against [divestment]” unless there are “exceptional circumstances.”