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Faculty for Divestment Renew Call for Open Forum

By Dev A. Patel and Steven R. Watros, Crimson Staff Writers

Members of Harvard Faculty for Divestment called once again for an open and public forum with members of the Harvard Corporation and the Harvard Management Company in a letter to Senior Fellow William F. Lee ’72 on Tuesday.

The letter marked the latest instance of communication in the debate over the University’s stance on divestment from fossil fuels between members of the Harvard Corporation—the University’s highest governing body—and the group, which currently consists of more than 150 faculty members from across Harvard’s schools.

The latter has repeatedly requested to discuss the matter in a meeting with the Corporation and HMC, as well as the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility and the Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility. To date, no such meeting has taken place.

“Leadership is not only about doing something the right way; that is simply conventional good management,” the letter to Lee, which was published Tuesday on the group’s website, reads. “Leadership is, ultimately, about doing the right thing.”

In defense of the University’s official position against divestment, Lee wrote to faculty members in July that Harvard retains greater ability to influence the actions of those companies in which it has shares. He also outlined several measures the University is taking to improve sustainability on campus.

But in Tuesday’s letter in response to Lee’s communication, faculty members alleged that the University has not exercised this ability.

“Harvard in 2012-13 voted against a proposal that would have compelled Chevron to report on climate change and against another that required Chevron to include an environmental expert on its Board,” the letter reads. “Harvard abstained on a vote to compel Chevron to report on oil well risks; and it voted against requiring Chevron and ExxonMobil to end their political spending, including spending aimed at voters in political elections.”

In a statement to Harvard Magazine on Tuesday, Lee did not reply directly to the signatories’ allegations, but said the Corporation “will review this message, just received today, carefully. We have learned a lot from members of the faculty, who have a broad range of views on this issue,  and look forward to continuing to do so.”

Harvard Faculty for Divestment has requested a meeting with University President Drew G. Faust and plans on holding a forum on Oct. 26 with faculty presentations on institutional divestment. Atmospheric Chemistry professor James G. Anderson, English and Comparative Literature professor James T. Engell '73, and History of Science professor Naomi Oreskes will be among the speakers.

In addition to the letter, Harvard Faculty for Divestment has expanded the ad hoc group of about half a dozen faculty members who lead the body to 16 professors from eight of Harvard’s faculties.

The written dialogue between the group and the administration began with a letter last April calling for divestment that was signed by more than 100 faculty members. In response, Faust said she planned on arranging for a “thoughtful exchange” on climate change with faculty members this fall, though she said she would not hold an open meeting with the Corporation and members of the pro-divestment activist group Divest Harvard.

Since the back-and-forth started last spring, faculty members in the group have insisted that Harvard must divest from fossil fuels, or risk “a future of potentially catastrophic change that will most emphatically not be of our choosing.”

—Staff writer Dev A. Patel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dev_a_patel.

—Staff writer Steven R. Watros can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveWatros.

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