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The Climate-Change Game: The privileged of Yale and Harvard disrupt a football afternoon

The denizens of Harvard and Yale like to describe their annual football contest as “The Game,” but these days the biggest game on campus appears to be politics. So it was on Saturday in New Haven, when the Harvard-Yale game was disrupted by students and others who stormed the field at half time to demand that the schools divest from fossil fuels.

The disruption lasted about an hour, which meant the game ended in near darkness because the Yale Bowl lacks lighting for night games. At one point a few hundred protestors were on the field, including some demanding the cancellation of holdings in Puerto Rican debt. Most left when police appeared, but a handful who refused were arrested.

Naturally, the protestors were cheered by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who tweeted, “I support the students, organizers, and activists demanding accountability on climate action and more at #HarvardYale.” The former Harvard law professor was joined by such other esteemed climate scientists as actress Alyssa Milano, who accused “our richest universities” of being “invested in the destruction of the planet.”

In a statement on Saturday, Harvard said that while “we agree on the urgency” of ending the use of fossil fuels, we “respectfully disagree with divestment activists on the means by which a university should confront it.” Maybe the university should do a better job of teaching its students about respect for the rights of others, as well as how much Harvard’s endowment contributes to their education.

As then Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust put in a 2013 statement: “Conceiving of the endowment not as an economic resource, but as a tool to inject the University into the political process or as a lever to exert economic pressure for social purposes, can entail serious risks to the independence of the academic enterprise. The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”

The truth is that Saturday’s stampede was a stunt designed to gain attention and intimidate Harvard and Yale to change policy no matter the inconvenience to large numbers of other people who wanted to enjoy a weekend afternoon with friends at an old school tie. Maybe someone should tell these self-anointed moralists: Check your privilege.