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UPDATED: February 14, 2015, at 11:57 a.m.
After occupying Massachusetts Hall overnight, 14 protesters demanding that Harvard divest its endowment from fossil fuels left the administrative building Friday morning at about 10 a.m.
Activist group Divest Harvard initiated its occupation of the building Thursday morning at about 10 a.m., when more than 30 of its members entered the building and trailed an administrator through a door that is typically locked. Protesters staged their sit-in in Mass. Hall’s first floor hallway, which contains the offices of University President Drew G. Faust, Provost Alan. M. Garber ’76, and other officials.
Faust, who has repeatedly argued that Harvard should not divest from fossil fuels, offered to meet with the protesters on Thursday, but on the condition that they exit Mass. Hall. The protesters rejected her offer.
In a statement Thursday, University spokesperson Jeff Neal called the protesters’ occupation “disrespectful and coercive interference.”
Still, Divest Harvard co-coordinator Talia K. Rothstein '17 said the group viewed the sit-in as a success even though they did not meet with Faust or convince her to divest Harvard’s $35.9 billion endowment.
“We saw incredible pressure pouring in on the administration; we brought the issue to the limelight again,” Rothstein said. “We’ve found that we really made our voices heard.”
Later in the day at 3 p.m., a group of Divest Harvard supporters rallied outside of Mass. Hall in support of Global Divestment Day, which activists planned to call for divestment from fossil fuels.
“We wanted to come together in an inspiring, uplifting mood,” Rothstein said after the rally.
The crowd sang African spiritual songs led by Rev. Fred Small, the senior minister at First Parish in Cambridge on Church Street, chanting, “Ain't gonna let Drew Faust turn me around.” Small said the parish, which divested its endowment from fossil fuels in 2013, is calling Harvard to do the same.
“My prayer is that [Faust] will come to understand the importance of divestment as a moral statement for a huge institution,” Smalls said. “Harvard could make a huge statement.”
Divest Harvard members also collected signatures for a week of civil disobedience they plan to stage in April, which will include prominent alumni and faculty, including author and activist Cornel R. West ’74, according to Rothstein. Rothstein said specific plans for the week are still in the works.
In a statement late Friday afternoon, Neal reiterated that “Harvard will continue to focus its efforts to combat climate change on the teaching, learning and research conducted by faculty and students who are committed to accelerating the transition to renewable sources of energy.”
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.
—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.
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