‘Distinguished’ Harvard Alumni Stage Protest During Reunion Ceremony

They called on President Drew Faust to divest from fossil fuel companies and "reinvest in environmentally responsible funds."

Image Courtesy of Divest Harvard

Image Courtesy of Divest Harvard

A group of prominent Harvard alumni were led out of a reunion ceremony by police on Friday when they unveiled a large banner calling on President Drew Faust to consider reinvesting the school’s stakes in fossil fuel companies that they say contribute to climate change and other environmental impacts.

The “four distinguished alumni” that were asked to leave the Sanders Theater, where Faust was delivering a speech to Harvard reunion attendees, were Reverend Betsy Sowers, an American Baptist minister; Wen Stephenson, a climate activist and reporter; Craig Altemose, cofounder and executive director of the Better Future Project; and Reverend Bob Massie, president of the New Economy Coalition, who led the group.

The banner that the four protesting alumni rolled out in front of Faust as she sat with her guests read, “Harvard Alumni For Divestment,” in reference to the student-led effort demanding that the university separate itself from fossil fuel companies that they claim are responsible for some of the drastic changes to the world’s climate. “Every brick in Harvard Yard testifies to the university’s commitment to the moral and intellectual leaders of the past,” said Massie, founder of the Investor Network on Climate Risk. “To hold true to that tradition, Harvard must now stop taking cash from fossil fuel companies committed to the destruction of the Earth. Those who hope to live tomorrow must act decisively today.”

Members of the student environmentalist activist group said in a statement that the four alumni had planned to stand in silence and hold the banner across the stage, while Faust made her remarks to attendees, but they were quickly led out of the building by officers, “showing once again the measures that Harvard is willing to take in order to avoid open discussion of divestment.”

Alumni protesters later tweeted that they were “banned” from the school’s property for their silent action:

Outside of the event where Faust was speaking to alumni, letters of support for divesting Harvard’s stake in fossil fuel companies were handed out to passerby. Divest Harvard, one of many student-based movements calling on their respective universities to shy away from accepting funds from fossil fuel companies, and reinvest in environmentally responsible corporations, has been rallying with consistency for the last two years to spur conversations about the topic.

Earlier this month, members of Divest Harvard camped out in front of Faust’s offices in hopes of setting up a discussion with the school’s president, leading to the arrest of one protester. The sit-in style gathering was part of a Day of Action “to demand an open meeting with the Harvard Corporation on the issue of divestment,” according to a Crimson article. Massie was also part of that action, standing in support of the student organizers.