“Re-examining Divestment.” By Isaac Lederman. Nation/Daily Princetonian. March 5, 2013. Change is tough. Sociologist Max Weber famously remarked that “politics is the strong and slow boring of hard boards.” Progress, in other words, does not come easily: One must fight tooth and nail. Sometimes, however, change does come. Consider what happened in the 1980s, when 55 colleges and universities either fully or partially divested from South Africa, which suffered under a cruel apartheid regime. Of this campaign, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a renowned opponent of apartheid, said the following in a New York Times op-ed: “There is no greater testament to the basic dignity of ordinary people everywhere than the divestment movement of the 1980s.” In other words, divestment in no small way contributed to the downfall of the horrific apartheid regime. Though much has changed since then, we unfortunately find ourselves once again embroiled in a fight against a terrible regime. We did not choose this fight: the times demanded it. We saw what havoc Hurricane Sandy wreaked on the Northeast and what hell the wildfires and drought that raged across the nation raised this summer. This does not include the destruction that climate change is causing all over the world. It should come as no surprise then, by the reckoning of economist Sir David Stern, inaction on climate change will cost us 5 percent of global GDP each year, “now and forever.” The situation becomes undoubtedly more troubling in light of the fact that fossil-fuel companies—which, according to one writer, hold “five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn”—continue to lobby against action on climate change. This is why these firms, with their iron grip on Washington D.C. and capitals around the world, deserve to be a called a regime—and a frightening one at that. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, ExxonMobil, which journalist Steve Coll rightly calls “a private empire,” spent close to $3 million on political activities in 2012 alone. That is to say, there’s a reason why action on climate change has been blocked time and time again. At this point, you might be wondering how you, as a Princeton student, alum, faculty member, staff or parent, are connected to the terrifying beast that is the fossil-fuel industry. The answer is simple: through the endowment.
“Activist Group Condemns Endowment’s Link to Gunmakers.” By Nikita Kansra and Samuel Y. Weinstock. Harvard Crimson. March 8, 2013. A student and alumni activist group criticized Harvard this week for its investment in an index fund that is a major shareholder of firearm manufacturer Smith & Wesson.
The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition pointed out the connection in an emailed press release on Tuesday. Although not included in the press release, a second major firearm manufacturer—Sturm, Ruger, & Co., Inc.—is also linked to Harvard through the same index fund. Harvard’s connection to these gunmakers is distant. The Harvard Management Company’s most recent filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicate no direct holdings in arms manufacturers, but rather an investment in a massive portfolio of companies that represent countless industries in the American economy, including gun manufacturing. HMC manages the University’s $30 billion endowment. In these filings, HMC reported that it has nearly $3 million invested in the iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund—a portfolio of 2,000 American companies. According to financial magazine Barron’s, the Russell 2000 Index Fund is considered to be representative of changes in the broader American economy. Harvard’s investment in the index fund drew attention from Responsible Investment at Harvard because the Russell 2000 is a major shareholder in Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger, & Co., Inc., which are two of the country’s top gun manufacturers. “I think the key takeaway here is that Harvard’s money…is going to support the manufacture and production of assault weapons,” said Nicole E. Granath ’15, co-director of Responsible Investment at Harvard. She added that even though the investment is indirect, any amount of money going to gunmakers is symbolic of support for the industry.