HOORAY for Harvard President Drew Faust!


Yesterday Drew Faust, president of Harvard University, became one of my personal heroes.  She spoke the truth, and spoke it plainly, as she explained the university’s wise and courageous decision to refrain from divesting in fossil fuel-related businesses. She pointed out the

troubling inconsistency in the notion that, as an investor, [Harvard] should boycott a whole class of companies at the same time that, as individuals and as a community, we are extensively relying on those companies’ products and services for so much of what we do every day.  Given our pervasive dependence on these companies for the energy to heat and light our buildings, to fuel our transportation, and to run our computers and appliances, it is hard for me to reconcile that reliance with a refusal to countenance any relationship with these companies through our investments.

Many college and university presidents are today engaged in a never-ending tango with hypocrisy: on the one hand they are caving to the feel-good pressure–usually brought by clueless students, as was the case at Harvard–to shed traditional energy stocks from the endowment, and on the other they are still heating, cooling, and lighting their campuses with fuel from the very same companies they purport to be teaching a lesson.   Is it any wonder that the longed-for status of the “public intellectual” is denied them?

By any measure, Harvard sits at the top of the academic heap. So it not at all surprising that it chose not to follow the crowd in making the hollowest of gestures and coarsest of pandering that is fossil-fuel divestment.

Harvard: A Shining Light in Academe.

Harvard: A Shining Light in Academe.

Ahem, says Miss with all due modesty, as she points to a few cogent–and now prescient!–comments she has made on this subject. As far back as January, Miss could read the smoke from the smokestacks on the Charles when she noted that “the private Ivies, along with Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Stanford  and a handful of powerhouse liberal arts colleges–Amherst, Wellesley and Williams” did not sign something called the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, a pledge by nearly 300 college and university presidents to “participate in the waste minimization component of the national RecycleMania competition.”

Harvard keeps the lights on for you.

Harvard keeps the lights on for you.

As much as I hope that President Faust and her board have set a new direction for pledge-signing presidents, I fear this will not be the case.  There’s too much retention at stake to risk the cessation of pandering at those other schools.

Further reading: Carbon Footprints in the Snow; Somebody Turned the Lights Off

As folks up at Harvard burn the midnight oil, Rochester Institute of Technology President Gerry Buckley helps students do their part of RecycleMania.

As folks up at Harvard burn the midnight oil, Rochester Institute of Technology President Gerry Buckley helps students do their part at RecycleMania.

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8 thoughts on “HOORAY for Harvard President Drew Faust!

    • Other than a shill for your blog (which I am happy to oblige), what is the relevance of your comment? Harvard is an independent institution.

    • Expertise with no power and power with no expertise sounds good to me, particularly when compared with expertise and power. With the former you you get inefficiency with the latter you get a particularly nasty form of tyranny.

  1. I thought Faust did a good job- and although she did say this somewhat obliquely- I’d have preferred something like ” Fossil fuels have made civilization possible- they are good things- the fact one has to clean up after using them does not make them bad things- go live in a yurt if you don’t like it!”

  2. A pretty good response by President Faust. I would however preferred something like “Fossil fuels make civilization possible- complaining about pollution from them is like complaining about cooking dinner because it results in dirty dishes! If you don’t like it go live in a yurt somewhere!

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