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Blockade Remains After Faust Offers To Meet With Protesters

Divest Harvard continues its planned blockade of Mass. Hall

UPDATED: April 17, 2015, at 12:17 a.m.

Night fell on day five of Divest Harvard’s blockade of Massachusetts Hall with the protesters still in place after University President Drew G. Faust offered to meet with demonstrators on the condition that they stop blocking the building’s entrances.

“I would be happy to meet with you and a representative group of your student colleagues when you have ceased disrupting university operations,” Faust wrote in an email on Thursday to Divest Harvard co-founder Chloe S. Maxmin ’15, according to a copy of the message shared with The Crimson.

Continued Dialogue
Students activists from different schools gather near the John Harvard statue during an open forum. The event took place Wednesday afternoon as part of Divest Harvard's "Harvard Heat Week."

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Maxmin responded a few hours later with a response signed by the group requesting a meeting with Faust and the Harvard Corporation “to formally negotiate about Harvard’s divestment.” Faust, who normally works out of Mass. Hall, wrote back late Thursday evening.

“I am sorry you have again chosen to decline my offer to meet. I am also sorry you have chosen to mischaracterize my invitation as an offer to ‘negotiate,’” Faust wrote. “I remain open to meeting with you again to hear your views, just as the university has made every effort to allow you and your colleagues to express your position despite the substantial disruption your activities have caused to the many people who work hard to serve Harvard, its students, faculty and staff.”

Divest at University Hall
Divest protestors line up around University Hall on Thursday afternoon as part of Harvard Heat Week.

The protesters, who began their planned “Heat Week” protests on Sunday, are demanding that the University divest its $35.9 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies.

In addition to their ongoing demonstration at Mass. Hall, roughly two dozen protesters from the group blocked entrances to University Hall for the second time this week, from about 6:15 a.m. on Thursday to about 5 p.m.

Faust wrote in her first Thursday email to the activist group that she had not received a request for a meeting from students until she saw a sign held by students on Wednesday afternoon at Emerson Hall, where demonstrators silently stood in protest outside a lecture she was introducing.

Orange Waves
While other protesters lined up along the perimeter of University Hall, a student hangs up messages supporting the Divest movement written on orange sheets of paper. In the background, pictures of oil company logos are taped on the statue of John Harvard.

Faust made a similar offer to meet with student protesters when they occupied Mass. Hall in February on the condition that they vacate the building, but the protesters declined. Faust has repeatedly argued against divestment as a means to address climate change.

On Thursday morning, many Divest Harvard members gave speeches for the group’s “students day.” In the afternoon, the group held a student open forum outside of Mass. Hall and also staged a demonstration in the Yard, taping fossil fuel company logos to the John Harvard statue.

Divest Harvard’s Thursday actions follow several days of protest. The group organized a similar blockade of University Hall on Tuesday that lasted until protesters left after about four hours. Tuesday’s University Hall protest drew little response from administrators, who went to work in other locations around campus.

Cornel R. West ’73 and Tim P. McCarthy ’93 are scheduled to visit the Divest Harvard protests on Friday. The group plans to end its “Heat Week,” which also included a close to two-day occupation of the Harvard Alumni Association in addition to the blockades, with a final rally at 6 p.m. at the Science Center.

—Staff writers Meg P. Bernhard, Noah J. Delwiche, Theodore R. Delwiche, and Andrew M. Duehren contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at mariel.klein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mariel_klein.

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