Harvard-Yale Students Challenge Fossil Fuel Industry

Students put their rivalry aside at the Harvard-Yale football game, with a common goal: asking their universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

A worldwide movement that emerged in 2010

Harvard and Yale activists want their universities to divest from fossil fuels. They were joined in their sit-in by actor and Yale alumni Sam Waterston. The students are asking for university investments to go into clean energy, and the communities most impacted by climate change -- like Puerto Rico. After the football protest, 42 people were arrested. American campuses are no stranger to divestment movements: like the Divest for Darfur campaign, against ties to the tobacco industry, or prison investments.

“To divest is to sell your business or your company, essentially to take your money out. But I think that we not only hope our universities will divest from the fossil fuel industry and cancel their holdings in the Puerto Rican debt but also that they will reinvest these in our futures. That they will invest in something like renewable energies, that benefit our planet and our communities, especially those disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, like low-income communities and communities of color. I think as young people, we are particularly cognizant to the fact that this is a crisis and that our futures, but also the future of generations that come after us and in certain parts of the world right now today, are really in jeopardy. And that's why it's been so incredibly frustrating to see universities like Harvard and Yale to be so resistant, so slow to react,” Charlotte Foote Yale 21’ tells Brut.

Anti-apartheid campaigners called for divestment in the 80s, and shamed companies and institutions with financial ties to the South African regime -- including Harvard. Other campuses have already vowed to stop or reduce their endowments towards fossil fuel energy like Stanford University. Fossil fuel divestment is a worldwide movement that emerged in 2010, Fossil fuel divestment is endorsed by Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Gore, Desmond Tutu and Yale Alumni Sam Waterston who joined the protesters on November 23. It has been deemed the largest anti-corporate campaign of its time. As of September 2019, a total of 1,100 institutions representing $11 trillion in assets worldwide have committed to divest from fossil fuels.