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Letter to President Faust from Department of San Miguel

Corrientes Capital, December 5, 2013

Dear Harvard University President Drew Faust:

We write to you on behalf of the communities affected by your plantations in the Department of San Miguel.

We want to point out that it has been almost two months since the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition released a report documenting the impacts that your companies generate in our communities.

At that same time, a group of students who are in solidarity with our struggle delivered to you a letter with three main points:

  • The request to stop expanding your plantations until you have completed an environmental and social impact study. This study should be cumulative, cooperative and inclusive of damages that have already been generated.

  • That timber plantations be moved immediately to a minimum distance of 2000 meters from our communities.

  • That you comply with all legally required employment practices for your workers in Corrientes.

But instead of siting down to discuss our demands and find a solution to this conflict, your companies have resorted to intimidation and scare tactics.

Mrs. Drew Faust, we have no idea how you resolve conflicts in the United States. But here, we don’t want your managers to seek us out, one by one, and pressure us in an attempt to make us abandon our struggle. We will not accept the recurrence of mysterious situations, such as being followed on the streets and seeing your company’s vehicles crash into our neighbor’s trucks.

What we want is for you to start an open dialogue with everyone who signed the letter you received almost two months ago.

We are only workers, farmers, citizens, students, and common folk, but we do not eat wood. We are not fools. Your people have met with the the Provincial Government to determine how to deal with this conflict, and there are pictures out in the open to prove it.

If there is no dialogue about how to implement our requests, we will make you personally responsible for any situation where our lands are involved and our physical or moral integrity is in jeopardy. You have been made aware of our situation. It depends on you to bring forth dialogue and disarm the conflict. We are a peaceful people, but we will not be stepped on.

We hope to hear back from you soon.

Residents of the Department of San Miguel, Corrientes Province of Argentina


The UC Endorses the Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act!

The Harvard Undergraduate Council unanimously approved the Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act, which furthers the Council’s official support of encouraging Harvard to adopt responsible investment practices.

As a part of the legislation, UC leaders will engage with administrators to urge them to ensure that university’s investments uphold Harvard’s values. Furthermore, the Undergraduate Council will work with RI@H to send a “mail merge” to all undergraduate e-mail addresses to publicize the campaign and to raise awareness among members of the student body.

The UC will also hold a campus-wide forum regarding responsible investment during the SHAME Tour and Week of Action in early April. The Council will invite administrators, faculty, members of the Harvard Management Corporation, and students to attend.

Sincerest thanks to the Undergraduate Council for their continued support of Responsible Investment!


Undergraduate Council endorses Responsible Ownership Policy

At last night’s Undergraduate Council meeting, undergraduate representatives passed legislation entitled “The Responsible Ownership Policy Endorsement Act.” Put forward by freshman reps  Riya Patel and Giora Ashkenazi, the legislation was co-sponsored by 17 other representatives, including UC Vice-President Sietse Goffard. An excerpt of the legislation reads: 

… Whereas in Argentina, Harvard-owned timber plantations are degrading the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem, expanding into protected wetland areas and surrounding communities, creating public health problems, damaging public roads, ignoring legally required employment practices and endangering thousands of farmers in the region;


Whereas residents of the communities affected by Harvard’s plantations in Argentina sent a letter to President Faust on December 5th, 2013 expressing their concern that even after two months, the administration still hasn’t responded to the RI@H Coalition’s report documenting the impacts that Harvard’s companies have in their communities nor to the community’s request to halt the environmental and human rights abuses and comply with legal employment practices, and expressing their desire to work with Harvard to satisfy both party’s needs rather than face intimidation and scare tactics aimed at quieting the protests;


Whereas President Faust has so far only responded by proxy and inadequately to this letter from the communities in Argentina;


Whereas President Faust has articulated a clear case for responsible investment, yet offers no evidence that Harvard actually engages its investments in this way, and instead the administration has demonstrated a lack of awareness and knowledge about its investments;


Be it therefore resolved that the Harvard Undergraduate Council officially endorse RI@H’s efforts to encourage Harvard University and Harvard Management Company’s adoption and application of the proposed policy to guide Harvard’s investment practices by February 12, 2014…

Statement on UC Town Hall

We issued the following statement tonight to The Crimson, members of the administration, and the UC:

The Responsible Investment at Harvard coalition is grateful for the Undergraduate Council’s role in planning and hosting a Town Hall on Harvard’s Investment Policies last Thursday. The highly attended event reflects widespread interest on campus in learning more about how Harvard manages its money and how it could become a more responsible institutional investor.

RI@Harvard was glad that Prof. Khurana, Prof. Kaplan, Prof. Ferrell and Dr. Zevin were able to share their thoughtful and diverse perspectives on how the Harvard Management Company (HMC) manages the endowment. We were also pleased to hear Prof. Kaplan announce that the HMC would assume management of the Fair Harvard Fund—which allows donors to ensure their money is invested according to socially responsible principles—if the administration requests that it do so.

We are highly disappointed by the HMC’s decision to retract our invitation to Dr. Joshua Humphreys—a preeminent scholar on university endowment ethics and a former Harvard lecturer—after he was invited by RI@Harvard, confirmed by the UC, and widely publicized as a confirmed participant. HMC’s refusal to send representatives to speak on a panel alongside Dr. Humphreys reflects its lack of commitment to transparency and open dialogue.

Despite the HMC’s decision to stifle free speech last week, RI@Harvard remains committed to developing an open and inclusive relationship with the HMC. In an effort to promote a more open dialogue, RI@Harvard plans to convene a follow-up Town Hall before the end of the semester. RI@Harvard will invite all community members interested in having an open discussion about Harvard’s endowment, including Dr. Humphreys, representatives of the HMC, President Drew Faust, and members of the Harvard Corporation.

We call on everyone committed to an inclusive, transparent, and responsible Harvard endowment to express their support for Dr. Humphreys by making a donation to the Fair Harvard Fund.

UC Hosts Discussion on Responsible Investment

The Undergraduate Council is hosting a Town Hall event to discuss Harvard’s Investment Policies on Thursday from 8:30-9:30PM in Emerson Hall 101.

Robert Kaplan, Professor of Management Practice at Harvard Business School, Vice Chairman emeritus of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Acting President and Chief Executive Officer of the Harvard Management Company, November 2007 to June 2008 

Rakesh Khurana, Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development at the Harvard Business School and Cabot House Master

Joshua Humphreys, Fellow at the Tellus Institute, founding Director of the Center for Social Philanthropy and Former Harvard lecturer. 

RSVP to the event here to ensure a seat:

Facebook event here: http://www.facebook.com/events/371399106216161/