Harvard Forward, a group of students and alumni concerned about climate change and seeking Harvard’s divestment from fossil fuels by electing members to the Board of Overseers, Harvard’s second-highest governing body, announced last week it had gathered nearly enough signatures to put its entire slate of candidates on the ballot for the upcoming election of new Overseers.
This petition by Harvard Forward is an embodiment of how we believe the University ought to be governed: openly, transparently, and democratically. We hope that the University can be receptive to Harvard Forward’s demands and that they can be incorporated into the Board’s plans.
Harvard Forward is a model of stellar grassroots advocacy for issues that Harvard Alumni are passionate about. We believe that the Board of Overseers election is the perfect forum to advocate for such issues.
The possible inclusion of Harvard Forward candidates on the Board of Overseers ballot is reminiscent of a similar movement that occurred 30 years ago when Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid successfully managed to nominate and elect candidates onto the Board of Overseers, including Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu. During those elections, members of Harvard’s administration supported members of the official slate of candidates in letters sent to alumni. The university changed voting guidelines to list other candidates separately on the ballot from those endorsed by the University, which HRAAA claimed was an attempt to influence the election that violated the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act.
We hearken back to this case to admonish the administration’s interference in those elections and to warn them to respect the electoral process in the event that Harvard Forward successfully nominates its candidates. If the University chooses not to put itself on the right side of history by divesting, then the least it could do is remain neutral in the elections. The Board of Overseers can only be an accurate representation of alumni sentiment if University officials do not meddle in the election of its members.
We also appreciate how Harvard Forward is united with current campus movements that we have supported such as graduate student unionization and ethnic studies. We believe that advocacy on these issues, in addition to fossil fuel divestment, is imperative. Harvard Forward is taking important steps to press the concerns of many current students and alumni within the administrative bodies of the University.
Finally, in line with our precedent supporting fossil fuel divestment, we support Harvard Forward’s efforts to ensure the University finally does divest from fossil fuels. More specifically, Harvard Forward’s work to produce thoughtful guidelines regarding best environmentally conscious investment practices is commendable. We believe informed conversations on investments are essential to facilitating the transition to a carbon-free future, and we would like to see Harvard Forward candidates help move Harvard forward toward fossil fuel divestment.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.