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Faculty for Divestment Brings Advocacy to Classrooms

Protesters attend a "Faith Day" rally in front of Massachusetts Hall. The event took place Wednesday morning as part of Divest Harvard's "Harvard Heat Week."
Protesters attend a "Faith Day" rally in front of Massachusetts Hall. The event took place Wednesday morning as part of Divest Harvard's "Harvard Heat Week." By Alexander L. Jaffe
By Karl M. Aspelund, Crimson Staff Writer

Twenty members of Harvard Faculty for Divestment, spanning seven of Harvard’s schools and courses, have signed up for the group’s “teach-in” this week, agreeing to speak about divestment to their students amidst demonstrations by activist group Divest Harvard.

Fourteen of the 20 professors who signed up to devote class time to the teach-in also indicated the name of their course; most of the courses listed were not related to issues of the environment or divestment. Faculty members said that, as a result, their advocacy often happened right before or after the course, including talking to students about the argument for divestment and distributing pamphlets with frequently asked questions.

Protesters attend a "Faith Day" rally in front of Massachusetts Hall. The event took place Wednesday morning as part of Divest Harvard's "Harvard Heat Week."
Protesters attend a "Faith Day" rally in front of Massachusetts Hall. The event took place Wednesday morning as part of Divest Harvard's "Harvard Heat Week." By Alexander L. Jaffe

Because the week’s demonstrations, dubbed “Heat Week,” had not been detailed before the beginning of the semester, group members said divestment had not been incorporated into course syllabi.

Group members who have participated said the classroom is the venue where faculty members can be effective in advocating for issues they care about.

“We as a faculty group felt that it was the perfect opportunity that individuals in this profession who recognize the gravity of the situation can act in civil society and in our professional capacity that makes a difference,” Harvard Medical School professor and group member James A. Recht said. While he does not teach in a classroom but rather takes on a supervisory role in his teaching, Recht spoke with some of his students about his support for divestment after clinic rounds this week.

For his part, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith said in a statement that “we fully support the academic freedom of our faculty.”

Harvard Faculty for Divestment, composed of about 250 faculty members who have signed an open letter urging the University to withdraw its investments in fossil fuel companies, has helped pass out flyers at this week’s demonstrations and plans to hold an open forum on divestment on Friday afternoon.

The “teach-ins” come amid efforts by Divest Harvard, including a sit-in at the headquarters of Harvard Alumni Association, a temporary blockade of entrances to University Hall, and a blockade of Massachusetts Hall that began Sunday night.

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at karl.aspelund@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

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