Update on Divest Harvard’s Communication with President Faust

Divest Harvard wrote to Drew Faust after we released a video in which she says that the fossil fuel industry doesn’t influence the political system. Below is President Faust’s email response as well as the entire video of our conversation. The full video with President Faust speaks for itself.  If President Faust wishes to clarify her statement, we invite her to join us in a public forum–which we have been requesting for months–to discuss her views on how the fossil fuel industry influences politics. 

[vimeo 88713768]

From: Drew Faust <president@harvard.edu>
Date: Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 9:32 AM
Subject: RE: Invitation to Divest Harvard Event on Wednesday 3/12
To: “harvardsjsf@gmail.com” <harvardsjsf@gmail.com>
Cc: “Madsen, Lars Peter Knoth” <lars_madsen@harvard.edu>

Dear Members of Divest Harvard,

I write in response to your latest invitation to attend an event designed to promote your call for divestment from fossil fuel companies.  As I have noted in our many conversations on the subject, I respect the passion you bring to the issue of climate change.  I share your belief that we, as a society, need to address climate change and vigorously pursue a transition to clean renewable energy sources as one important strategy.  University research is a crucial avenue for hastening the development of cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels, and it is through research that Harvard can best advance progress on this issue.  I and my fellow members of the Corporation do not believe that divestment is an appropriate way for Harvard to contribute to the development of solutions to this pressing problem.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my disappointment in the way you have distorted a comment I made last month when your group decided to follow me with a video camera as I walked to my office.  After all of our frank discussions on this topic over the past couple of years, I had hoped you would carry on your campaign with a greater degree of civility and fairness.

When I said “that is not the case” I was addressing the assertion that fossil fuel companies were somehow disrupting Harvard’s ability to implement programs of research into climate change and renewable energy.  That is, as I said, not the case.  The University has a vital role to play in the development of new technologies that could lessen the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, and we should protect the endowment’s ability to continue to fund such research into the future.

Harvard will also continue efforts to advance sustainability on our own campus.  Since the launch of our sustainability initiative, we have conserved resources, improved our building operations, invested in renewable energy, and reduced our greenhouse gas emissions.  We have more to do to create a culture of sustainability, and I am committed to building on the strong progress that we—as one Harvard community—have made.  I hope you will join this effort.


Drew Faust


From: Divest Harvard <harvardsjsf@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 11:31 PM
Subject: Invitation to Divest Harvard Event on Wednesday 3/12
To: Drew Faust <president@harvard.edu>, “Madsen, Lars Peter Knoth” <lars_madsen@harvard.edu>

Dear President Faust,

Last Friday, we were surprised and disappointed to hear that you believe that fossil fuel companies are not blocking the implementation of climate solutions.

A wealth of research and journalism, including work done by Harvard’s own faculty, proves the very opposite. Your arguments against divestment have been built on a fundamental misunderstanding about the fossil fuel industry.

Now is the time to revisit the facts and reconsider divestment. We would like to invite you to hear from your faculty and students at a teach-in next Wednesday March 12 on the myriad ways that the fossil fuel industry uses its wealth and power to block climate action. As we are striving to make this convenient and accessible for you, we will hold the teach-in on your doorstep at Massachusetts Hall and repeat it three times, at 1PM, 1:30PM, and 2PM. We will have a chair waiting for you.

Our community at Harvard revolves around the idea of Veritas. This university instills the courage and humility to admit mistakes, absorb new information, and revisit conclusions. We hold our scholars to this standard because there is no other way to pursue the truth that our community holds so dear. We expect the same courage and humility of our President because truth provides the foundation for moral and responsible action.

We hope that you will honor Veritas by joining us next Wednesday to learn how the fossil fuel industry has blocked clean energy and climate action.


Divest Harvard