Yesterday, a group of students presented a letter to President DeGioia asking the University to freeze all new investments in fossil fuels and divest from current holdings within the next five years. The students, known as GU Fossil Free, also demand that Georgetown increase transparency and accountability in the investment process by giving the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility review and veto powers over the University’s investments.
The University should stand by this proposal and try to meet the demands of GU Fossil Free as soon as possible.
Divesting from fossil fuels is no easy task, as records of previous divestment campaigns at Georgetown suggest. In 1986, it took more than three years of constant student pressure and 35 student arrests for the University administration to commit to divesting from American companies engaged in apartheid-era South Africa. Moreover, it’s almost certain that fossil fuel investments currently represent a much larger portion of the university’s endowment than South African business did in the 1980s.
However, considering last November’s launch of Georgetown’s $20 million Environment Initiative, the University has a demonstrated commitment to environmental welfare. As a university that takes pride in its Jesuit ideals, Georgetown should not only be concerned about the devastating implications of global warming on the environment, but also the danger it poses to human communities.
According to the Clean Air Task Force, coal burning is linked to 21,000 American deaths and another 300,000 cases of acute cardiac and respiratory illnesses every year. In a country that lacks a universal public healthcare system, this means that lower income brackets suffer the most from America’s addiction to dirty energy.
Georgetown has the resources to take meaningful action on climate change and the social responsibility to divest. Although the University depends on the endowment for crucial programs like financial aid, there exist a myriad of sound and profitable investment alternatives that don’t compromise Georgetown’s financial or ethical integrity.
Universities across the nation have seen similar campaigns start up over the past year. Even though significant progress has been made on smaller campuses, no campaign has been successful at a university with an endowment larger than $1 billion. As one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, Georgetown should serve as an example for its peers—we demand that the University divest from fossil fuels according to GU Fossil Free’s timeline, sending a clear moral message that today’s generation does not stand for environmental injustice.