Following the halftime protest at the Yale-Harvard game, Faculty of Arts and Sciences senators are discussing the student activists’ calls for Yale to divest its holdings related to fossil fuels and Puerto Rican debt.
According to Chair of the FAS Senate John Geanakoplos, conversations among members of the FAS concerning the University’s financial policies are ongoing. The FAS Senate last met on Nov. 21, two days before the demonstration rocked “The Game.” While the FAS Senate has not yet released their agenda for the Dec. 10 meeting, the Senate Executive Committee discussed the protest when it convened on Tuesday.
“The Senate is considering this complex issue, as other University Senates are,” Geanakoplos wrote in an email to the News.
According to an official list of demands, the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition — which helped organize the 200-person halftime protest — is calling on the University to disclose and divest its holdings in fossil fuel companies and Puerto Rican debt. In a Sunday interview, Fossil Free Yale activist Nora Heaphy ’21 said both student and faculty action are important for putting pressure on universities to vacate their positions.
Yale does not disclose its holdings. According to a September statement from University spokesperson Karen Peart, Yale asked the endowment managers not to hold companies “that refuse to acknowledge the social and financial costs of climate change and that fail to take economically sensible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” in 2014.
At a Tuesday meeting with the Senate Executive Committee, Senator Valerie Horsley — also a molecular, cellular and developmental biology professor — told the News that she brought up the protest.
“As a Yale faculty member, I want Yale to do everything it can to address climate change through its mission of research and teaching,” she wrote in an email to the News. “Its investments are another avenue of influence.”
According to Geanakoplos, the Senate is planning to hold a session next semester “to educate our faculty and ourselves about the possible ways in which we can collectively play a role in promoting climate action.” It remains unclear when the session will take place.
Tuesday’s monthly Harvard FAS meeting featured heated deliberations over divestment. Per a report from the Harvard Crimson, faculty members passionately called for Harvard’s endowment managers to “withdraw from, and henceforth not pursue” investments in companies related to fossil fuels and to replace advisers who are unwilling to comply.
In recent years, faculty members at other institutions have pressured their respective universities to divest from fossil fuel companies. At the University of California, grumblings over the school’s holdings in controversial industries date back to 2014 or even earlier. Faculty members joined protests and met with members of Fossil Free UC, a student activist group dedicated to advocating for ethical investments. This September, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, UC investors announced that the endowment and pension fund would go “fossil-free” soon. These investors said their motivation was not entirely based on student protests. Notably, the announcement came days after student demonstrations took place on campuses across the state.
Earlier this week, Brown University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies voted 6–2–1 in favor of divesting from companies that facilitate “human rights violations in Palestine.” The news comes months after dozens of faculty members at Brown signed an online petition in support of student activists calling for such action.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate’s first meeting of 2020 will be held in Connecticut Hall, according to its website.
Matt Kristoffersen | email@example.com