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Harvard Medical School Faculty Council to Vote on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Members of the Harvard Medical School Faculty Council will vote on a resolution supporting fossil fuel divestment Wednesday.
Members of the Harvard Medical School Faculty Council will vote on a resolution supporting fossil fuel divestment Wednesday. By Camille G. Caldera
By James S. Bikales and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Medical School's faculty council plans to vote Wednesday on a resolution urging the University to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

The resolution calls on the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to eliminate “all direct investments and commingled assets” in fossil fuel companies. In addition, the resolution implores Medical School Dean George Q. Daley to “adopt this resolution on behalf of Harvard Medical School.”

Wednesday’s resolution, which is purely advisory, also requests the Medical School “declare a climate crisis” and endorse the U.S. Call to Action on Climate, Health, and Equity.

Medical School professor James M. “Jim” Recht — a member of Harvard Faculty for Divestment — said he hopes Daley will respond to the resolution by “publicly calling for that divestment to take place.”

The role of the 41-member Faculty Council advises the school’s dean in major policy decisions. Recently, the council created a sub-committee to address climate change, according to the sub-committee’s co-chair Caren G. Solomon ’84.

Solomon, an associate professor at the Medical School, said the major health problems associated with global climate change are why it is appropriate for Medical School faculty as well as physicians and scientists to weigh in.

“As physicians and scientists at the Medical School, we feel we have a responsibility to protect health,” Solomon said.

The resolution highlights the potential health consequences of climate change, including “heat-related illnesses, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, insect- and waterborne diseases, allergies, malnutrition, traumatic injuries, and mental health conditions.” It also argues the climate crisis has a detrimental impact on health care.

“The climate crisis is also causing disruptions to health care delivery - including damage to hospitals and clinics and interruptions in care and in the supply of equipment and medications needed for care by storms, flooding, and wildfires,” the resolution reads.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on the resolution on behalf of the University and the Harvard Corporation. Medical School spokesperson Laura DeCoste declined to comment on behalf of the Medical School and Daley.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted overwhelmingly last week in support of a similar resolution urging the Corporation to divest. Since the vote, roughly 500 additional faculty members from across the University have signed an open letter to University President Lawrence S. Bacow and members of the Harvard Corporation urging fossil fuel divestment, according to Harvard Faculty for Divestment’s website. The letter now has more than 1,000 signatures.

Solomon said the Medical School’s vote was not coordinated with the vote carried out by the FAS, but added that she thought it was useful to know what her colleagues were doing.

“I just thought their vote was fantastic because it made such a strong, important statement,” she said. “We hope to be able to do the same.”

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamepd

—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.

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