On Dec. 7, a new student group called Georgetown Students for a Radically Ethical Endowment (GU F.R.E.E.) held a rally in Red Square and presented demands to university President John DeGioia. Group members demanded full disclosure of Georgetown’s financial holdings in order to confirm that the university is not invested in companies the group describes as complicit in state-sponsored violence.
Approximately 75 people gathered in Red Square at 4:00 p.m.. According to a press release distributed by the group, the rally was intended to draw attention to GU F.R.E.E.’s campaign for transparency in university finances, with the specific goal of publicizing any financial ties between Georgetown and organizations involved in human rights abuses. The press release also mentioned that the university Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility has been unresponsive to GU F.R.E.E.’s requests for information regarding investments thus far.
Students gave brief speeches outlining the group’s objections to issues such as privately-owned prisons, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and ongoing violence in Sudan. “We find it hypocritical and disingenuous for Georgetown, a Jesuit academic institution, to profit off of the oppression and simultaneously dodge accountability with complicity by being intentionally obscure about their holdings,” Chris Morris (COL ’19) said at the rally. “Is faith and justice limited by supply and demand?”
A flyer distributed by the group advocated university divestment from any holdings in the private prison industry and companies involved in human rights violations stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Mechanisms of state violence can only function with funding, and it is crucial that we interrogate where this funding is coming from. Often that funding source is us,” said MacKenzie Foy (COL ’19).
GU F.R.E.E. has grown out of discussions held this past summer between Foy and Eman Abdelfadeel (COL ‘17), on how to address the issues of private prisons and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Our ideas and our movements were stronger together and our goals were ultimately the same — to leverage our positions at students to defund violence against marginalized communities,” Foy wrote in an email to the Voice. “Theres (sic) about 40 individuals including core organizers who have been involved with planning it [the Dec. 7 event], but the coalition is also comprised of 22 organizations and several faculty members. We hope that this list will continue to expand.”
After the speeches, students marched from Red Square to DeGioia’s office. Students chanted slogans like “Georgetown Georgetown, just face it, your investments are racist.” Some students carried signs reading “Follow the Money,” “Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” and “Jesuit values – state violence – no overlap.” Inside the building, students began chanting “black lives matter, Palestinian lives matter” in front of the president’s office.
Joe Ferrara, DeGioia’s chief of staff, met with students at the President’s office. Ferrara received a copy of GU F.R.E.E.’s letter to DeGioia, as well as a list of companies from which the group wants the university to divest. “Should you sign this letter, you will confirm that Georgetown is not invested in multinational companies that empower state violence – any other response will indicate to us, GU FREE, that this University is subsidizing these systems of oppression,” the group wrote. Group leaders mentioned the date of Jan. 13 as their deadline for a response from the university.
“I will definitely share this with President DeGioia. My understanding is that this proposal has been delivered to our Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility,” Ferrara said. “I believe they have asked members of GU F.R.E.E. to come forward at their January meeting to make a presentation about this.” Ferrara would not commit to a set date for a university response to the demands.