FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 5, 2015
MIT faculty, student groups, and alumni call for fossil fuel divestment
79 MIT faculty, 21 student groups, and alumni diverting donations, appeal to MIT President’s legacy on graduation day, calling for climate action, including fossil fuel divestment.
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Today, amidst calls from more than 3,400 MIT members, 79 MIT faculty sent an open letter to MIT President Rafael Reif and the Institute’s Executive Committee urging divestment of the university’s $12.4 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry. Simultaneously, 21 MIT student groups sent a separate open letter imploring Reif to “make climate change action the defining legacy of your presidency and the generational mission of this Institute.” Meanwhile, MIT alumni encouraged graduating students to divert donations away from MIT to their 20-university-strong Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund until their alma mater divests.
Recently, MIT Vice President Maria Zuber challenged MIT’s faculty “to engage and express your views” on divestment. The faculty letter responds: “We stand alongside thousands of MIT students, staff, and alumni in urging you to divest the Institute’s endowment from fossil fuels as part of a comprehensive climate action plan…Divestment is not only right, it is powerful.”
“Our integrity is at stake,” the letter adds, referring to the fossil fuel industry’s “proven record, past and present” of promoting doubt about the realities of climate change.
MIT faculty signatories include National Medal of Science physicist Daniel Kleppner, Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow Junot Díaz, and 2005 “world’s top public intellectual” Noam Chomsky, whose recent public endorsement of divestment has been watched almost 90,000 times. Signatories hail from a wide range of departments and from every school at MIT, and include several department heads.
MIT Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Scott Aaronson, who was not involved in writing the letter, said “What made up my mind was reading the arguments pro and con, and seeing that the organizers of this petition had such a clear-eyed understanding of what they were trying to accomplish and why: they know that divestment can’t directly drive down oil companies’ stock prices, but it can powerfully signal to the world a scientific consensus that, if global catastrophe is to be averted, most of the known fossil-fuel reserves need to be left in the ground, and that current valuations of oil, gas, and coal companies fail to reflect that reality.”
Also on graduation day, MIT’s President received an open letter from 21 MIT student groups, including student dorms, the sustainability subcommittees of both the undergraduate and graduate student councils, and the climate change action group pushing for divestment, Fossil Free MIT.
“This is a threat to our futures and to global and intergenerational justice,” say the groups. “We are diverse in our academic majors, personal interests, political views, religious beliefs, and cultural backgrounds, yet when it comes to climate change, we are united. We stand shoulder to shoulder in calling on MIT to summon its moral courage and thought leadership so as to rise to meet this singular crisis and opportunity of our time.” The students insist MIT avoid “false dichotomies” and instead ask, “what all can we do?”.
Their proposals for climate action include “reinventing climate change education”, “launching an MIT Manhattan Project” on climate and energy, “divesting MIT’s endowment from fossil fuel companies”, “reinvesting in campus energy efficiency”, transforming MIT into a “living laboratory for sustainability, efficiency, and energy”, and “engaging with our public and politicians”.
MIT graduate student Alison Takemura, who is a member of two signatory groups, Fossil Free MIT and Art of Living at MIT, described how “A year ago, we mostly had Fossil Free MIT and individual voices calling for the MIT administration to act on climate change. Now, we’re seeing groups rallying around this issue. And these constituencies – the faculty, the students, the alumni – they aren’t going away.”
MIT alumni recently joined with alumni from 20 other universities (and even one high school) nationwide – including Stanford, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania – to launch the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund. Participating alumni are diverting their donations to the fund until their alma mater divest. “The fund…leverages the greatest power alumni hold: our annual giving capability,” MIT alum Rajesh Kasturirangan and Dartmouth alum David Goodrich described.
The faculty, student, and alumni outpourings come on MIT’s graduation day, when the steering committee of President Reif’s MIT Climate Change Conversation – a year-long campus-wide discussion about what actions MIT should take in the face of the climate crisis – is due to report back to MIT’s administration on its findings. The administration will in turn “recommend to the President a path forward.” It was launched by President Reif in May 2014 in response to calls for divestment. Among the administration-sponsored events was a public debate on divestment in April, which garnered widespread attention.
To read the faculty letter and for more information, visit MITFacultyDivest.org.
To read the student letter and for more information, visit MITClimateLegacy.org.
For more information on the alumni Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund, visit DivestFund.org.