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    Divestment activists protest outside MIT president’s office

    A dozen student activists staged a sit-in Thursday outside the office of MIT’s president to protest the university’s decision to continue investing its endowment in fossil fuel companies.

    The protest began around 6:30 a.m., a day after the school announced a five-year campus blueprint to confront climate change that eschews divestment. Students said they do not know yet how long they plan to remain camped outside President L. Rafael Reif’s office.

    In announcing the climate-change plan Wednesday, Reif said MIT can more effectively combat climate change by cooperating with gas and oil companies, many of whom fund research at MIT, and by doing more research and education about renewable energy and global warming.


    The student group that has been pushing for divestment, Fossil Free MIT, said the college is putting “money before morals.”

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    “We won’t stand idly by while divestment gets tossed aside despite support from thousands of MIT community members,” said Jeremy Poindexter, a doctoral student researching solar cells, who is among those camped outside Reif’s office.

    The school this week announced its decision not to divest its $13.5 billion endowment after more than a year of discussion on campus about how to address climate change. The university formed a committee that released a report this summer. Committee members did not agree on whether to divest from fossil fuels but a majority did support divesting from coal and tar sands companies, which the school announced it will not do.

    “Divestment from coal and tar sands is a no-brainer, and would have unified rather than ostracized MIT’s community,” said Geoffrey Supran, a doctoral student at the sit-in who was also on the committee that produced the report.

    A university spokeswoman described the demonstration as respectful and said the president agrees “entirely” with the group on the “seriousness and urgency of the climate threat, and on the need for MIT to play a leadership role.”


    “However . . . we believe that a strategy of active engagement is the most effective way for MIT to drive progress on the climate challenge,” said the spokeswoman, Kimberly Allen.

    Laura Krantz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.