Overseer Calls on Harvard to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Kathryn “Kat” A. Taylor ’80, a member of the Board of Overseers—the second highest governing body of the University— publicly called for Harvard to divest from fossil fuels Wednesday afternoon, marking the first time any member of Harvard’s governance boards have called for divestment.

Taylor is the co-founder and CEO of Beneficial State Bank, a California-based community development bank. She was elected to the Board of Overseers by Harvard alumni in 2012, and her term will end later this year.

In an op-ed published by The Crimson on Wednesday, Taylor called for University President-elect Lawrence S. Bacow and Harvard Management Company—the investment branch in charge of the University’s $37.1 billion endowment—to “adopt ethical investment principles.”

“At a minimum, Harvard should direct the Harvard Management Company to divest from fossils fuels to prevent the end of life as we know it through cascading climate-driven disasters,” Taylor wrote. “This single act would not only take steps to address the existential crisis of our time, but it would allow the University to lead its peers, as few, if any, American universities thus far have taken this important moral stance.”



The University has faced consistent pressure in recent years from faculty and students alike to divest from fossil fuels.

More than 100 Harvard faculty signed an open letter in April 2014, urging University President Drew G. Faust and the Corporation to divest from fossil fuel investments. As of Wednesday, more than 270 have signed the letter. In March 2015, a group of 20 students stormed and occupied Massachusetts Hall— where Faust’s office space is located to demand fossil fuel divestment. And in March 2017, 20 members of the student activist group Divest Harvard blockaded University Hall to demand similar action.

Despite the mounting pressure, Faust has held firm on her stance on divesting from fossil fuels, arguing that Harvard can better tackle climate change through research.

“While I share their belief in the importance of addressing climate change, I do not believe, nor do my colleagues on the Corporation, that university divestment from the fossil fuel industry is warranted or wise,” Faust wrote in a letter to Harvard affiliates in 2013.

In an email sent to Harvard affiliates in January, Faust announced the University’s plans to be fossil-fuel free by 2050. However, Faust did not discuss the University’s stance on its fossil fuel investments at the time.


Chloe S. Maxmin ’15, the co-founder and CEO of Divest Harvard said _____

Tim E. Wirth ’61, a former member of the Board of Overseers and former United States senator,

—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20.