Kat Taylor, Member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers, has called for the University to divest from fossil fuels in a move she states “would not only take steps to address the existential crisis of our time, but it would allow the University to lead its peers, as few, if any, American universities thus far have taken this important moral stance.”
In an op-ed published in The Harvard Crimson on Wednesday, Kathryn A. “Kat” Taylor introduced herself as one who has served “for the past six years as a duly-elected member of the Harvard Board of Overseers” and in her last act in that position called upon the next Harvard University president and the Harvard Corporation members “to adopt ethical investment principles.” Specifically, Taylor called for the University “to divest from fossils fuels [sic] to prevent the end of life as we know it through cascading climate-driven disasters.”
While the larger divestment movement has spread far and wide and been taken up by tertiary education institutions the world over, Harvard University has remained relatively obstinant in its attitudes, despite numerous pleas and campaigns urging the University to divest. In April 2017, Harvard Unversity finally caved — but only to a degree. Speaking at a Climate Week event in late April, Colin Butterfield, Harvard Management Company’s (HMC) Managing Director of the Committee of Natural Resources, said that they will be “pausing” direct investments in oil, gas, and coal.
“What I can tell you is, from my area, I could honestly say that I doubt — I can’t say never, because never say never — but I doubt that we would ever make a direct investment with fossil fuels,” Butterfield said at the time. “But that’s more of an Investment Committee decision, and I cannot talk on their behalf.”
Since then, however, there has been little movement, and even the Divest Harvard website and Facebook page — run primarily by students and responsible for the massive on-campus pressure Harvard University has received to divest — has no new info.
In her The Harvard Crimson op-ed, Taylor explained not only the moral need for Harvard University to divest from fossil fuels — and the need for the University to take a leading role so that others follow, a move that is already too late considering the tremendous impact made by other institutions across America and around the world — but Taylor also highlighted the financial benefit in divesting.
“Ironically, the University would have seen better endowment returns over the last ten years had Harvard’s leadership listened to the student and faculty movement and instructed HMC to divest from oil, coal, and gas,” she wrote. “Fossil fuel companies have been among the worst performing sector of the market for the past 5 years, in no small part because of legitimate concerns that inevitable climate regulation will leave them with fuel reserves they can never bring to market and burn.”
In response to Kat Taylor’s op-ed, those involved in and around the campaign to urge Harvard to divest spoke out again in favor of divestment.
“The endowment is as much a part of Harvard as the campus and the research and academic excellence it is known for,” said Harvard alumnus and former Senator Timothy Wirth. “Divestment is not only consistent with the values the university ostensibly stands for but is a wise protection for future students.”
“Harvard students, faculty and staff mobilized an international movement calling on Harvard to divest,” said Chloe Maxmin, co-founder of Divest Harvard, which ignited the movement on campus. “The University failed to listen and forever lost its chance to be a climate leader. Now Harvard must follow its students to the right side of history.”
“I stand up for this mandate on behalf of my constituents — like the faculty who warned us, the alumni who agree, and the students we disappoint — because I serve Harvard,” Taylor warned.
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