Divestment Of Endowment Funds At Colleges

Submitted by larryf13 on Tue, 05/05/2015 - 11:39am


A small college in Cambridge MA recently made a very bold and responsible move by being the first Boston institution of higher education to divest their direct holdings in fossil fuels. Lesley University, with a $7 million investment in fossil fuels, is deeply concerned with fossil fuels reckless pursuit of profit and total disregard to the quality of life for the next generation. Lesley University should hold their heads high and be very proud of their commitment to a cleaner planet in the future. Not only are they committed, they are doing something about it.


From Lesley, walk five minutes down the street to Harvard University and the case for divestment is completely different. University President Drew G. Faust has repeatedly argued against divesting Harvard�s $35.9 billion endowment from fossil fuels. Faust has repeatedly stated the University�s priority is its academic mission and that its endowment funds are intended �to advance academic aims, not to serve other purposes, however worthy.� President Faust wrote that Harvard should not be a �political actor� and insisted that endowments are not tools for social change. Additionally, she wrote that the endowment should be seen as a resource, not as �an instrument to impel social or political change.� Faust�s position has been that divestment would be risky to Harvard�s research and teaching mission and additionally it would significantly constrain investment options and returns.


Divest Harvard was founded in 2012 with a mission to push the university to direct its investments out of fossil fuel. This group was co-founded by a Harvard senior by the name of Chloe Maxmin. She is concentrating her studies in Social Studies with a secondary in Environmental Science and Public Policy. She comes from a mid-coast Main community and has been recognized nationally and internationally for her dedication to the environment. Chloe Maxmin and President Faust have completely opposing views to this complex subject, however, each is committed to their beliefs and will not waiver.


Beginning April 12th, Divest Harvard began staging its most ambitious act yet, hoping to bring hundreds of students, faculty, and alumni to Harvard Yard to blockade Massachusetts Hall for �Heat Week,� which will run until April 17. Hundreds of protesters say they are willing to be arrested, according to Maxmin. This escalation is the product of the group�s disillusionment with an administration that they claim has not seemed willing to meaningfully engage with them or take the action they think is necessary.


Divestment from select fossil fuel producers would send a powerful message to the energy industry and the nation. It would signal that America�s Universities take the climate-energy challenge seriously. Harvard has made significant strides in the area of sustainability, and our professors are also doing great work in this area. Adopting an investment strategy that encourages the development of renewable energy and lower-carbon fossil fuels could be an important piece of our university's response to the coming energy challenge. Harvard�s position that divesting would present a risky financial move that could cost Harvard a significant portion of their revenue stream that the University uses for its tuition assistance programs to students who otherwise be unable to attend such a recognized institution. Individuals on each side of this heated issue have deep rooted convictions and this battle is far from over.



GENI is a co-founder of the Global Climate 100 Index (GC100). The GC100 includes 100 equally weighted companies that operate in three key areas, clean technology, renewable energy and future fuels. We believe this index will provide above average long term returns while being socially responsible with the constituents it includes.

Disclosure Note: GENI receives remuneration from this (GC100) index.


Larry Fontaine