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Harvard Medical School Faculty Council to Vote on Fossil Fuel Divestment
Last week, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences chose to break from the administration’s longstanding position to vote overwhelmingly in favor of divestment from fossil fuels. Their proposal — approved by a whopping 179-20 margin — advises the Harvard Corporation to divest the University’s endowment from companies that “explore for or develop further reserves of fossil fuels.” It will now be brought to the Harvard Corporation for consideration. The vote marks the culmination of a four-month-long debate among faculty over the proper role of the University in combating climate change.
Regardless of what the Harvard Corporation chooses to do with this proposal, the faculty’s vote is a positive development. We reiterate our stance that divestment from fossil fuels is a moral imperative and reject the notion that our education must be funded through practices that hasten environmental calamity. It is illogical for the University to continue to invest in a future that it is actively working to eliminate. As such, it’s encouraging to see the faculty considering fossil fuel divestment so rigorously, and then electing decisively to champion it.
We look forward to seeing their proposal presented to the Harvard Corporation. However, we do so warily. The documented ties Harvard Corporation members have to the fossil fuel industry cause us to question how much their opinion will be swayed by this proposal. Regardless, we urge the Harvard Corporation to seriously consider this proposal and divest from fossil fuels, especially since this vote has followed years of student-led activism that they have continuously ignored and discounted. It bears note that faculty are discussing this issue in significant part due to the rigorous student activism organizations such as Divest Harvard and others have engaged in over the past few years. If this proposal is not taken into serious consideration, not only will it be deeply disappointing, but it will also be a glaring sign to faculty and students alike that Harvard truly does not care about what they think. If Harvard’s administration has faith in its faculty, then the fact that they voted 179-20 in favor of divestment should mean something.
In debates leading up to this vote, faculty members supporting divestment argued that Harvard, as one of the top universities in the nation, needs to be at the forefront of an international divestment movement. And while it inspires hope to see faculty members fighting for the change that its students have been wanting to see for a long time, the idea that Harvard is falling behind and that we must be a “leader” in this divestment movement should not be one of the primary arguments for divestment from fossil fuels. Not only is it way too late for Harvard to be a leader in this movement (many universities are already leading this charge), but this type of language and reasoning discounts the struggles of those immediately and disproportionately affected by climate change, particularly already marginalized communities. When Harvard centers conversations on divestment around the optics of how divestment would make Harvard look, it does a disservice to these people.
Finally, we urge the faculty to seriously consider and discuss other divestment movements, including divestment from the prison industry, Puerto Rican debt, indigenous landholdings, occupation of Palestine, and any others that are being led by students on this campus. The faculty have shown themselves capable of serious deliberation, and the fate of these other movements stands to benefit from such considered treatment.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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