Congressional Harvard alumni lobbied to support Iran divestment on campus

Harvard students have been lobbying alumni lawmakers to sign on to a campus effort to urge the university to divest from companies doing business with Iran’s energy sector.

The students first visited Capitol Hill in February to push divestment, and visited 20 House and Senate offices in an initial attempt to get all 38 Harvard alumni in Congress on board.

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They came back for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March, renewing the effort to get lawmakers' support. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who has been highly critical of White House efforts to stem Iran's nuclear program to date, agreed to be the leader on the letter, said Harvard Law student Alexander Chester.

Other Harvard alumni in on the effort thus far include Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Tom Petri (R-Wisc.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), John Adler (D-N.J.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

Petri is the only Republican among Congress’ Harvard alumni.

In an AIPAC forum, Sherman advocated “embarrassing companies” that do business with Iran and chided the U.S. for allowing Boeing plane parts to be exported to Iran. “My response: Stop your terrorism or ground your air fleet," he said. “Their response is to allow the Boeing parts exports.


“We all know what's going on here,” Sherman added. “Three administrations violating American law for the purpose of protecting Iran's business partners.”

Chester told The Hill that Harvard was not a leader on South African divestment during the apartheid era, calling it “an enduring stain on Harvard's legacy.” The goal is to make sure that a strong statement is made on Iran.

With healthcare just passing and leaders in Congress freed up a bit to pay attention to other issues, “hopefully they can go from one success to another,” Chester said.

Student Sam Silverleib said the divestment effort is about “standing up and saying this regime is wrong and we're not supporting it.”

Recent Harvard graduate Natalia Martinez has also created and launched an online alumni petition to urge the university to divest from Iran.

The AIPAC conference was attended by 213 student body government presidents from all 50 states and 1,303 college and high school students. Few of the students were Jewish, according to AIPAC.