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Divest Harvard Plans to Blockade Massachusetts Hall

Divest Harvard
Protesters hang a banner from the upper floors of Massachusetts Hall on the second day of their weeklong 2015 blockade of the administrative building, which houses University President Drew G. Faust's office.
UPDATED: March 22, 2017 at 4:02 a.m.

Divest Harvard plans to occupy Massachusetts Hall sometime next week in protest of the University's decision not to divest from the coal industry.

Members of the activist group, which protests Harvard’s investment in the fossil fuel industry, had originally intended the blockade for Wednesday, though the group cancelled the demonstration after The Crimson learned of the plans. Divest Harvard has postponed the blockade of Massachusetts Hall, which houses the offices of University President Drew G. Faust and other top University administrators, until next week, according to an email sent over the group's email list.

Until early Wednesday morning, the group had planned to blockade the building on Wednesday.

“Tomorrow, members of Divest are going to be blockading Massachusetts Hall from 6 a.m. until the end of the workday,” Isa C. Flores-Jones ’19, a member of the group, said in an interview Tuesday night. “We intend to disrupt the regular workday at Massachusetts Hall to call out President Drew Gilpin Faust as well as the administration for their inaction on divestment.”

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Divest Harvard has obstructed administrative buildings several times in the past. Last April, police arrested four protesters demonstrating at the Harvard Management Company headquarters in Boston. In 2015, Divest Harvard blockaded Massachusetts Hall for a week in protest of Harvard’s fossil fuel investments.

“We are prepared for the possibility of arrest,” Flores-Jones said.

According to a press release circulated to Divest members on Tuesday, the planned demonstration marks “a new push for coal divestment.” While Harvard does not currently invest in coal for financial reasons, it has not ruled out re-investing in the future. In the past, Divest Harvard has called on the University to remove its investments in all fossil fuel companies.

Faust has repeatedly stated that Harvard will not divest from fossil fuels, arguing that Harvard can help fight climate change through its research and that divestment would politicize Harvard’s investment practices. She has also argued that such a move could damage the endowment, which lost nearly $2 billion in value in fiscal year 2016.

“While I share their belief in the importance of addressing climate change, I do not believe, nor do my colleagues on the Corporation, that university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is warranted or wise,” Faust wrote in a letter to Harvard affiliates in 2013.

The group has called on HMC to engage in “sustainable investing” in the past. Flores-Jones said organizers planned the blockade at Massachusetts Hall as opposed to the HMC office because it is a “central site for administrative action” and “targets the key decision makers.”

A Massachusetts Appeals Court recently ruled that Harvard is not required to divest from fossil fuels following a lawsuit by student activists.

—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at graham.bishai@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBishai.

—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at leah.yared@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.

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