Georgetown undergraduates, graduate students, and university faculty rallied outside McShain Lounge in Southwest Quad to support GU Fossil Free as it officially presented its divestment proposal to the Committee on Investment and Social Responsibility on Monday afternoon.
“We were really excited to see so many people come out to support us,” said Chloe Lazarus (COL ‘16), a member of GU Fossil Free. “It was really vibrant. We had lots of chants, we had music, and lots of different organizations were represented, both Georgetown recognized and non-recognized.”
At the rally, GUSA President Trevor Tezel (SFS ‘15) noted the importance of students gathering together in protest in order to spark change. “I hope the Committee got the message,” Tezel said.
After working together for over three semesters, CISR invited GU Fossil Free to present its final proposal for the first time.
“The CISR is an advisory board to the Board [of Directors], and they are, at least on the path the university put us on, the first ones who need to make a decision about divestment in order for it to move up the ranks,” said Caroline James (COL ‘16), member of GU Fossil Free and of CISR, before going into the meeting with CISR. “We’ve been working with them for two years personalizing this proposal to Georgetown’s specific endowment.”
Though the specific details of the meeting are confidential, Lazarus shared that the group gave its presentation and had a “really constructive dialogue” about the proposal.
GU Fossil Free was not given a specific timeframe for CISR’s decision, but the group wants swift action to take place so that its proposal can appear on the Board of Directors’ agenda in February.
“At this point in our campaign, we are really just trying to tell CISR that this is an urgent matter that needs to be discussed now,” Lazarus said. “It can’t continuously be stalled or delayed. Decisions need to be taken now so that injustice is stopped now, or at least Georgetown isn’t profiting off these injustices.”
James expressed that there is no point in waiting any longer for CISR to make a decision after the group has spent over two years reshaping their proposal—including a compromise on its original demand for immediate divestment from all fossil fuel companies. The new proposal asks for divestment over a three year period from the top 200 companies.
In an email to the Voice, however, CISR indicated actions on the proposal that it may still take.
“As part of the committee’s deliberations, the CISR may pursue additional research, refinements to the proposal, and other considerations before determining whether or not the proposal merits further consideration by the Board of Directors or the Committee on Finance and Administration,” wrote members of CISR, including Professor James M. Morita, chair of the committee.
Even if CISR elects not to support the proposal when advising the Board of Directors, GU Fossil Free will not halt its action on divestment. Lazarus explained that CISR must make a recommendation either way in support of or against the proposal.
“We are really starting to see that students have expressed a clear position on this that Georgetown needs to start taking the first steps towards divesting from fossil fuels,” Tezel said.
Student groups, such as H*yas for Choice and GUSA, have supported the proposal and were all present at the rally to stand behind GU Fossil Free and protest the university’s investment in fossil fuel companies.
“It’s important to support GU Fossil Free because, if you’re looking at intersectional feminist issues, divestment is a really big one,” said Vincent DeLaurentis (SFS ‘17) of H*yas for Choice. “Pollution makes it very difficult for women, especially women of color and low-income women, to raise healthy families. So in the wider reproductive justice context, you need divestment if you’re going to have true justice for women and true control over your ability to raise a family.”
According to GU Fossil Free, Georgetown would be the first Jesuit university and the first Catholic university with an endowment over $1 billion to divest. The theme of Jesuit values came up multiple times during the rally—even after the members of GU Fossil Free had gone into the meeting to present to CISR, supporters continued to chant, “What would a Jesuit do? A Jesuit would divest.”
“The proposal makes sense,” said DeLaurentis. “Georgetown should really work on better promoting healthy families and healthy environments.”
Photo by Vicki Lam