Misguided idealism of Georgetown, Divest!

By:
04/14/2010

While many of the concerns and grievances articulated by the new campus group Georgetown, Divest! are valid, its demand that the University divest its money from companies profiting from human rights violations in Israel is logistically impractical and ultimately unreasonable.

The string of reports coming from the Middle East appear to confirm the assertions aired by the newly formed coalition Georgetown, Divest! that the human rights situation in Gaza and the West Bank is deplorable and the University is obliged to take action. This past Sunday, the Israeli military issued an order that would force thousands of Palestinian West Bank residents from their homes, and a Human Rights Watch report recently concluded that Israel has done little to investigate potential war crimes perpetrated during last year’s Gaza War.

Yet as dire as the situation in Israel may be, Georgetown, Divest!’s argument that the University has an obligation to pull its investments in companies that profit from Israel’s poor policies is impractical.  Georgetown’s seven-member investment team does not directly choose which companies to invest Georgetown’s endowment money in. Rather, they select a number of investment managers who independently invest Georgetown’s endowment, often putting money into complex funds and financial instruments. As a result, it is very difficult to draw up a list of the companies Georgetown has money invested in, and it would be exceedingly difficult for Georgetown to divest from a select list of specific companies. Complying with Georgetown, Divest!’s demands would potentially require a transformation of its investment process and the possible resumption of direct investment by the Investment Office, weakening Georgetown’s endowment.

While those involved in Georgetown, Divest! have done a good job of focusing campus attention on the problems in Israel, they would be better off focusing their energies on issues other than divestment.  Instead of demanding that the University pursue the impractical policy of divestment from companies that profit from illegal Israeli settlement construction, it would be better for the coalition to push the University to use its resources in a more productive manner—to promote dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, and to follow through on its long-term proposal to build a Georgetown-sponsored hospital in Gaza.

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5 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Misguided idealism of Georgetown, Divest!”

  1. Avatar Madame Psychosis says:

    West Bank, not Gaza.

  2. Avatar Life Is Hard, Not Easy says:

    When John F. Kennedy advocated going to the moon, he said “We choose to go to the moon and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

    When Allied Soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy to open a second front against the Nazis, it was anything but easy.

    When divestment occurred from South Africa, it was also hard.

    Your final exams here are hard, but you take them.

    If we took the easy path and never stepped out of our comfort zones, there would be no Jews in Europe, we’d never have reached space, and we’d be at separate schools and eating from separate lunch counters.

    If you want to back out of taking a moral stance, do it because of a real reason. Don’t dismiss it with a fraudulent reason.

  3. Avatar Wrong says:

    This column reflects nothing but unprincipled laziness masquerading as “pragmatism.” If Georgetown needs to change its investment procedures to get away from companies that have consistently been shown to profit from human rights abuses in Israel/Palestine, then so be it. Georgetown has been obstinate and unwavering in other parts of its Catholic identity, but it seems social justice is always on the chopping block when money’s involved. The take-away from this column is that it’s alright to talk about social justice, as long as it doesn’t require any commitment or challenge. Shame on both Georgetown and The Voice for valuing profits over people so slovenly.

  4. Avatar R U serious? says:

    This is amazing to me. I am reading things written by rational, intelligent and thoughtful people who believe that profit motive is the only acceptable thing. Georgetown can’t be expected to divest of something basically everyone agrees should be divested from because its too hard?

    Let’s call ethical investing a “regulation” not unlike other regulations in America and do a quick comparison.

    Should universities mandate specific vaccines for students and have an entire team to oversee? I mean an awareness campaign would work just as well, right?

    Should the meat packing industry *have* to clean and check their meat as required by law? Meat inspectors seriously cut into their profit.

    Should the judicial system have laws and rules that must be followed for a case to move forward? Things would go much more quickly if they could just do what was most “efficient” and profitable, your rights are cutting into the courts profit margins.

    Should the government apply regulations so financial institutions don’t gamble away the next decade? Nah, it would be too hard.

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