On the upcoming GUSA election ballot, students will vote on three referendums, two of which pertain to sustainability. Though the referendums will not bind the university to action, they present an opportunity for students to register their opinions about campus issues.
The first referendum is the GU Fossil Free (GUFF) initiative encouraging Georgetown to divest from fossil fuel companies. GUFF has pushed for the university to divest for multiple years and won a major victory in 2015 when Georgetown withdrew direct investments in coal companies. The group argues that investing in fossil fuel companies violates Georgetown’s Socially Responsible Investing Policy, which aims to ensure that the school’s investments align with the school’s “commitment to social justice, protection of human life and dignity, stewardship for the planet and promotion of the common good,” according to its website.
“The GU Fossil Free Referendum is advocating that the University should consider divestment from fossil fuels to abide by their statement that ‘the University shall use reasonable efforts to avoid investments in…companies that are engaged in activities having an extremely deleterious effect on the environment,’” the group’s referendum memo reads.
Divestment is not the only environmental issue on Thursday’s ballot. The Blue Campus initiative aims to encourage Georgetown to create a task force for the proposal and supervision of guidelines for ocean-friendly policies. The proposal outlines policies in the areas of energy efficiency and consumer education, including transitioning GUTS buses to zero-emission vehicles and a “What’s a Hoya?” session dedicated to ocean sustainability.
The final referendum is for a Student Empowerment Fund brought forward by GUSA. According to the voter guide, the fund would be an allocation of $50,000 from the Student Activity Fund intended to finance “projects which have defined, reasonable, and achievable goals and which invest in the future of the student body, and to supplement the Student Activity Fee as a source of revenue for funding student activities on campus.” The referendum will not allow GUSA to withdraw money from the fund until FY 2036, and the Finance and Appropriations Committee can withdraw five percent of the funds “for the express purpose of serving as an additional source of revenue in the Student Activities Fee Budget.” Withdrawing more than five percent of the funds at once will require a two-thirds majority vote from the GUSA Senate.
The university is not required to act on the results of any of the three referendums, which require a simple majority to pass. The GUSA Executive election will take place on Thursday, Feb. 6.