Group continues protest over Harvard fossil-fuel portfolio

From left, Brett Roche, Olivia Kivel, Talia Rothstein, and other members of Divest Harvard blocked  the entrance to an administration building on Harvard's campus Monday.
From left, Brett Roche, Olivia Kivel, Talia Rothstein, and other members of Divest Harvard blocked the entrance to an administration building on Harvard's campus Monday. Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

CAMBRIDGE — Harvard students and climate-change activists blocked the entrance to the main campus administration building for a second day Monday, as part of what they say will be a weeklong protest calling for the school to divest funds from corporations tied to fossil fuels.

The action at Massachusetts Hall forced top college leaders — including president Drew Faust — to work elsewhere.

“The time for dialogue is over,” sophomore Maryssa Barron, wearing an orange Divest Harvard T-shirt, said outside.

Orange and black banners that read, “Whose side are you on? #divestharvard,” hung from the windows on the third floor of the building.


On Monday afternoon, about 60 Harvard graduates, including prominent climate-change activist Bill McKibben, occupied the office of the Harvard Alumni Association on Mt. Auburn Street, saying they will not donate to the school until it divests.

When the office closed at 5 p.m., nine people — including McKibben — hunkered down as campus police stood by. Protesters were allowed to spend the night in the office, while police kept guard. They sent a letter to the alumni association executive director asking for a meeting Tuesday morning.

The group Divest Harvard kicked off the rally Sunday evening, and many spent the night in Harvard Yard. By Monday afternoon, their ranks had dwindled to several dozen, from an estimated 150 the night before.

Scattered sleeping bags, pizza boxes, and laptops signaled, however, that many of them would be staying put. Morning rallies and evening vigils are scheduled every day this week.

Divest Harvard is the same student-led group that staged a sit-in inside Massachusetts Hall in February, demanding to speak with Faust about divesting from fossil fuel companies.

At $36.4 billion, Harvard has the largest endowment of any college in the world. Faust announced in October 2013 that Harvard had no plans to divest, saying the endowment is intended “to advance academic aims, not to serve other purposes, however worthy.”


McKibben, founder of 350.org, a grass-roots organization that spreads awareness about the effects of climate change, said Harvard was refusing to fully acknowledge the problem, a stance he deemed ironic given the scientific advancements that have taken place at the university, including in climate science.

“It’s always the case that Harvard, I suppose one could say, needs to be dragged to do the right thing,” he said.

Faculty members are also participating in the protest. More than 250 faculty members, out of 2,000, have signed a petition in favor of divestment.

More than two-thirds of undergraduates have also voted in favor of divestment on a referendum vote, students said.

“It is extraordinary that there has been no public dialogue about divestment that involves the administration,” said professor Nancy Rosenblum, who teaches government.

But Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal said in a statement that Faust and the university have provided many opportunities for divestment supporters to raise their concerns, including opportunities advocates have declined to accept.

The university agrees that climate change is a serious problem, Neal said, and has committed to tackling it through “research, education, engagement with key actors in the energy and policy domains, and efforts to reduce its own carbon footprint.’’

Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Laura Krantz can be reached at Laura.Krantz@Globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.