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Harvard Forward — an alumni organization advocating for the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry — will move to a “purely remote and digital campaign,” according to a Harvard Forward statement released on March 17.
The statement, which was prompted by the global COVID-19 pandemic, announced their campaign will not continue with in-person events until social distancing is no longer a necessity.
“We encourage everyone to follow the recommendations for social distancing in your own lives to the extent that you are able to do so,” the statement reads.
Despite Harvard Forward putting forward its own slate of candidates in October, the Harvard Alumni Association Committee did not ultimately nominate any of the group’s Overseer candidates. Candidates, however, could appear on the ballot if they submitted a petition with 2,936 alumni signatures — one percent of eligible voters in the prior year’s election — by Feb 1. All of Harvard Forward’s candidates met the signature requirement, receiving over 4,500 alumni signatures each.
During the nomination period, the Harvard Forward campaign and its supporters held office hours in more than 50 cities around the world to allow alumni to fill out nomination forms in person. Harvard Forward also gained ground by encouraging people to submit nominations online through the University’s election website, and by visiting continuing care facilities to solicit the help of older Harvard alumni.
In its statement regarding COVID-19, Harvard Forward stressed the importance of “community” during the pandemic.
“In these strange and difficult times, the support we find in our communities is essential, and we’re deeply grateful for the community we’ve built around Harvard Forward,” it reads. “We’ve heard from supporters that participating in this effort gives them something meaningful to work on, encouraging them to be hopeful in this period of anxiety and social isolation—and that is certainly true for us as well.”
The press release encouraged supporters to join the campaign in digital outreach as a way to pass time while in social isolation.
It also linked to a GoFundMe page created by Harvard First Generation Alumni to assist first generation and low-income Harvard students in the wake of the University’s announcement to send students home. As of March 29, the GoFundMe page had surpassed its goal of $50,000 and raised more than $65,000.
“Additionally, as most of you likely know, Harvard required students to leave campus on short notice, placing an enormous burden on those who are low-income and/or first-generation students,” the statement reads. “There has been great organizing work occurring to support students who need help, and we encourage those of you who can to contribute to these efforts.”
This year’s election for the Board is scheduled to take place from April 1 to May 19. Alumni can vote by traditional paper ballot or online. Exceptions apply to members of the Harvard Corporation and those in University instruction and governance positions, who cannot vote.
—Staff writer Michelle G. Kurilla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MichelleKurilla.
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