Harvard Students Block Campus Building To Push Fossil Fuel Divestment

Apr 13, 2015
Originally published on April 14, 2015 2:32 pm
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Student activists are demonstrating in Harvard Yard, demanding that the world's wealthiest university sell its shares in big oil and coal companies. From member station WGBH, Kirk Carapezza reports.

KIRK CARAPEZZA, BYLINE: Students are blocking the entrance to Massachusetts Hall, Harvard's oldest building, preventing university president Drew Gilpin Faust from entering her office. The protesters want Harvard to sell off the fossil fuel stocks in its $36 billion endowment.

CHLOE MAXMIN: This is a movement, and social movements have a power and they last through history.

CARAPEZZA: Senior Chloe Maxmin is founder of the group Divest Harvard. Maxmin says dozens of students are ready to be arrested.

MAXMIN: Last year, when we did our first civil disobedience, which was still two years into our campaign, we could barely get six students to commit. Watching all of these people willing to risk something and sacrifice something for our campaign is incredibly humbling.

CARAPEZZA: These protests are part of a broader movement. Earlier this month, Syracuse University said it will stop investing in fossil fuels. At Harvard, President Faust has repeatedly responded to protesters by saying divestment from fossil fuels is not warranted or wise. Still, alumni have descended on campus to support students. Here's Wes Stephenson, class of 1990. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly give Wen Stephenson's first name as Wes.]

WEN STEPHENSON: Nothing serious is going to happen on climate change until there is a political counterweight to the disproportionate political power of the fossil fuel lobby.

CARAPEZZA: Robert Stavins disagrees. He teaches environmental economics at Harvard.

ROBERT STAVINS: We need to focus on actions that are going to make a real difference as opposed to actions that may feel good or look good, but have little real-world impact.

CARAPEZZA: Organizers insist building a grassroots movement has plenty of real-world impact. Students here say they'll continue their protest through Friday. For NPR News, I'm Kirk Carapezza in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.