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Fossil fuel divestment, and the Koch brothers

I generally support the pro-disinvestment position taken in this column in Sunday’s New York Times, and in Karen Hao’s May 13, 2014 column in The Tech. MIT’s decision to divest would have exceptional impact because of the Institute’s global brand in science and technology. The decision to divest is not easy because the world still needs fossil fuels and because the companies that extract, process, and distribute them also fund clean energy research. But, for MIT, fossil fuel divestment would also be the first step in solving a problem that is unique to the Institute.

It is long past time to put some daylight between MIT and the Koch brothers, alumni whose name is plastered all over campus. The Kochs have spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars creating false doubt about the scientific consensus on climate change using sham scientific associations and anonymous 501(c)(3) organizations. As the cost of climate change becomes more and more apparent, the Koch brothers will go down in history as villains, no matter how many cancer research centers and opera houses they fund.

I don’t expect MIT to raze the Koch buildings, but the Institute can at least take a stand on the right side of the scientific “debate,” a debate that would have ended at least a decade ago but for the Koch brothers.

No other school can divest with the impact of MIT. No other school is so entwined with the Kochs, and no other school needs so badly to dissociate itself from their disastrous legacy.

Michael Hassett is a member of the Class of 1972.