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Harvard Medical School Council Joins Chorus of Faculty Favoring Divestment

Harvard Medical School's Gordon Hall sits across the HMS quadrangle.
Harvard Medical School's Gordon Hall sits across the HMS quadrangle. By Justin C. Wong
By James S. Bikales and Michelle G. Kurilla, Crimson Staff Writers

Amplifying faculty calls for fossil fuel divestment, Harvard Medical School professors overwhelmingly passed a resolution Wednesday urging the University to divest its endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

The Medical School’s Faculty Council voted 23-5 to call upon the Harvard Corporation to remove “all direct investments and commingled assets” from companies that make the majority of their profits from fossil fuels, according to a copy of the Council’s resolution provided by Medical School professor James M. Recht. A separate resolution passed by the same vote urged Dean George Q. Daley to make a similar demand.

Medical School spokesperson Laura DeCoste wrote in an email that Daley would be unavailable to comment until Friday. Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain confirmed in an email that University President Lawrence S. Bacow would share the Council’s resolution with the Harvard Corporation.

The Medical School’s vote comes one week after Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences overwhelmingly passed a similar resolution calling for divestment.

After a nearly four-month-long debate in faculty meetings over the proper role of the University in combating climate change, 179 faculty members supported the motion, while 20 opposed. Bacow pledged in comments after the vote to share the FAS resolution with the Corporation.

While both faculty bodies threw their support behind divestment, only the Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — can decide whether or not to divest from fossil fuels.

In a press release, Divest Harvard — a student group demanding the University divest from fossil fuels — wrote that the passed resolution is the latest among multiple recent victories for advocates of their cause.

“Their overwhelming passage of a resolution calling for divestment and declaration of a climate emergency, which is yet another accomplishment of one of the largest faculty activism movements in university history, sends a clear message to university administration that it’s time for real climate action,” the press release reads.

In comments before the vote, Medical School assistant professor Caren G. Solomon ’84 — who co-chairs the Council’s newly minted subcommittee on climate change — said it was particularly important for faculty from the school to weigh in on divestment because of its potential health harms.

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

— Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

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

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