The GUSA Senate passed a resolution to submit a referendum on fossil fuel divestment to the student body and failed to pass a similar referendum in support of ocean-friendly university policies at their Jan. 20 meeting.
Sen. Leo Arnett (SFS ’22) introduced a resolution in collaboration with GU Fossil Free (GUFF) that calls for a referendum on divesting Georgetown’s endowment from fossil fuel companies. The referendum, to be held on Feb. 6 on the same ballot as the GUSA executive election, will gauge student support for complete divestment from fossil fuel companies, an issue which GUFF has lobbied for since 2012.
The university has already divested from coal and tar sands, though an undisclosed percentage of Georgetown’s endowment is still invested in oil and gas companies. GUFF argues that continued investment in fossil fuel companies, which it defines as those “whose primary business is the extraction, processing, or distribution of fossil fuels,” violates Georgetown’s Socially Responsible Investing Policy.
GUFF submitted a proposal for complete divestment to the university’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility in January but has been unable to meet with them to discuss its contents. GUFF member Victoria Boatwright (COL ’22) explained that the referendum is intended to demonstrate student support for the issue and encourage more sustained communication. “This referendum is really just to show the Board of Directors that this is a priority for students,” Boatwright said.
Sen. Harrison Nugent (SFS ’20) objected to the referendum, questioning the effectiveness of divestment in reducing carbon emissions. “At the end of the day, global demand for fossil fuels aren’t really decreasing drastically by Georgetown University divesting,” he said.
Sen. Juliana Arias (SFS ’20) argued that the referendum would allow students to voice their opinions on the topic. “We need to give students as many chances as possible for them to decide what to do on campus, right? Because it is their voice that we’re representing here,” Arias said.
The resolution passed with 19 votes in favor, four votes against, and one abstention.
Sen. Leo Rassieur (COL ’23) introduced a resolution on a referendum to designate Georgetown a Blue Campus via ocean-sustainable policies. It would have assessed student support for the GUSA executive’s commitment to ocean-friendly practices and laid out a series of measures that would reduce Georgetown’s environmental footprint.
Rassieur said that the referendum would aim to establish student support for the Blue Campus designation, as well as for its accompanying environmental policies.
Sen. Jessica Richards (COL ’20) noted that many of the initiatives listed in the resolution are already underway and questioned the necessity of a referendum on the measures. “I want this to have as much power as it can have, but I just worry that the way it’s currently being done will diminish its effectiveness,” Richards said.
The resolution failed with 17 votes in favor and seven against.
Additionally, Sen. Peter Lee Hamilton (COL ’20) introduced a resolution to commemorate Joseph Mark Lauinger (C ’67). Lauinger, for whom Lauinger Library is named, was killed in action during the Vietnam War in January 1970.
The commemoration would involve honoring Lauinger’s sacrifice on the 50th anniversary of his death, as well as recognizing the members of the university community who have died in service of the United States.
“I think that the honorable thing to do is recognize not only Joseph Mark Lauinger’s service, but all the members of the Georgetown community who have given their lives in protection of certain liberties and freedoms,” Hamilton said.
Richards disagreed with the commemoration and asked the Senate to consider the resolution carefully. “We should definitely think about who we’re commemorating and what that means in the larger picture of who Georgetown commemorates,” Richards said.
The resolution passed with 19 votes in favor and five against.
The Senate also unanimously approved a resolution introduced by Sen. Charlie Wang (SFS ’22) to recognize the Lunar New Year on the Georgetown University calendar.
The GUSA Senate will meet next on Jan. 26th at 5 pm in Healy 106.