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Harvard declines student group’s call to divest oil and gas stocks

Despite pressure from climate change activists, Harvard officials said Friday that it is unlikely the university will divest its holdings in fossil fuel stocks.

A Harvard spokesman declined to speak to the Globe on the record. But a statement issued by Harvard said the university’s Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility plans to meet with members of Students for a Just and Stable Future, a group that advocates for fossil fuel divestment and clean energy.

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“Members of the University Corporation’s committee on shareholder responsibility will meet students next semester to discuss endowment investment policies and the students’ concerns regarding fossil fuels,” the statement said. “But, as we have stated before, the university has a strong presumption against divestment.”

In a Harvard undergraduate election last month, 72 percent of students who voted supported divestment, or the sale of fossil fuel stocks.

Student activists at a number of campuses around the United States, including Boston University, Tufts University, and MIT, are pressing universities to divest their endowments’ holdings in oil and gas stocks.

Chloe Maxmin, a member of Harvard’s chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future, said that this semester the group e-mailed Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust a half dozen times, and went to her office six times without a response.

On Wednesday, she said, the group received an e-mail from the president’s office that said the group would have the opportunity to talk with members of the shareholder responsibility panel next semester.

The campus newspaper, The Crimson, recently reported that Faust said it was “unlikely” that Harvard would change its investment strategy after the meeting.

“My argument would be that our most effective impact on climate change is not going to come through any kind of divestment activity,” Faust said. “It’s going to come through what we do with our teaching, our research, the people . . . we support, the students who may be the heads of the EPA or all kinds of organizations.”

Alli Welton, who is also a member of the student group, said its members learned that Harvard was investing in fossil fuels from public records.

In an e-mail republished on the student group’s website, Jane L. Mendillo, chief executive of Harvard Management Co., wrote that although the university invests in “fossil fuel related businesses,” they are also concerned with issues of sustainability.

“We, like many other members of the Harvard community, are concerned with the long-term health of our planet, as well as Harvard’s ability to pursue its core mission for many generations to come,” she wrote.

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