Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Fossil Free Storms Directors’ Meeting

After representatives from GU Fossil Free met with five members of the university board of directors Wednesday night to discuss complete fossil fuel divestment, six members of the group attempted to walk into the full-body meeting of the board of directors Thursday afternoon, where they were denied entry by Georgetown University Police Department officers.

As per University President John J. DeGioia’s agreement with GU Fossil Free in November to allow the group to meet with the board of directors on the issue of divestment, GU Fossil Free met with five members of the board on Wednesday, including William Berkley, Maurice B.W. Brenninkmeijer (GSB ’86), William J. Doyle (CAS ’72), Carol Keehan and Rev. Joseph P. Parkes, S.J.

During the meeting on Wednesday, members of the board informed the group that they would vote on divestment during their board meeting in May or June. In addition, board members requested the group to potentially reformulate its proposal to include partial divestment.
The meeting between GU Fossil Free and the board members came after the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility’s rejection of GU Fossil Free’s original proposal two weeks ago. CISR offered an alternative proposal of targeted divestment.

After the meeting, GU Fossil Free released an open letter to the board of directors expressing its gratitude to the board for its consideration.

“We sincerely thank [the members of the board] for listening to our presentation and responding with thoughtful questions,” the letter read. “Your attention and presence were deeply appreciated.”

However, the letter also expressed the group’s dissatisfaction with the CISR’s suggestions, as they defended their proposal for full divestment.

“[V]arious board members [requested] us to ‘make a list of priorities’ regarding divestment. In their words, asking for full divestment from the top-200 fossil fuel companies is a large step,” the letter read. “GU Fossil Free will not provide the board with a ‘list of priorities’ … because full divestment is about integrity at its core. … If our university opposes any of the practices of any of the top 200 companies, based on human rights abuses or global climate change, Georgetown University therefore equally opposes all companies.”

At the same time of the meeting, GU Fossil Free organized a rally in which around 30 students marched from Red Square to McShain Lounge, where the meeting was being held.
Sam Kleinman (COL ’16), an attendee at the rally, said that he was excited to participate in a student movement for justice.

“This is a symbolic movement to move us away from the violence and murder that goes along with fossil fuels and toward a more sustainable future,” Kleinman said. “I’m really happy to be here and this is just the kind of movement Georgetown needs.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson was also present at the rally. Olson said that he appreciates GU Fossil Free’s efforts in expressing its beliefs.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share my personal opinion on GU Fossil Free, [but] we appreciate and value the rights of students to express their views,” Olson said. “We know this is an important issue for many students.”

In a statement issued to The Hoya by University Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh, GU Fossil Free was granted the meeting with the five board members because of its contributions to raising awareness on divestment.

“While the GU Fossil Free proposal is not being considered by our board of directors, the GU Fossil Free students have made significant contributions to the alternative proposal,” the statement read. “Because of this and in light of GU Fossil Free’s contributions to the conversation on campus, it seemed appropriate to have [them] meet with some of our board members to discuss these contributions while the board is here on campus this week.”

On the following day, six members from GU Fossil Free, including Caroline James (COL ’16), Patricia Cippolitti (COL ’15), Grady Willard (SFS ’18), Christina Libre (COL ’17), Daniel Dyelewski (COL ’15) and Elaine Colligan (SFS ’15), attempted to gain access into the full board meeting at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center.

Although GUPD officers denied the group entry into the meeting, the group read out a letter addressed to the board at the door of the conference room.
In the statement read out at the board meeting, GU Fossil Free members further stressed the moral importance of divestment.

“By continuing to profit from an industry so implicated in systemic injustice, we are not only condoning death and destruction — we are enabling and perpetuating it,” the group read out in unison. “Moral consistency demands that we pull our financial and political support from all of these companies.”

James said that the walk-in was necessary in order for board members to fully understand the urgency of divestment.

“After the meeting [on Wednesday], even though we felt pretty much heard, we wanted to take that one last step since we were not allowed to come into [Thursday’s] board meeting to reiterate that this was an urgent and crucial matter,” James said. “So we decided to try to walk into the board meeting and if that was not allowed then to do what we called a ‘mic check.’”

James also said that she thought GU Fossil Free conducted the walk-in respectfully.

“The [walk-in] was done completely because we respect the board of directors. … We respect the board and their decision-making power too much to only be heard by five members of what’s a 30-to-40-person body,” James said. “We thought that everyone deserves to be on the same page about who the faces were behind this proposal. We were very polite and tried not to cause any trouble. We were refusing not to be heard.”

According to the GU Fossil Free Facebook page, the group will be hosting a teach-in entitled “Divestment and Collective Liberation” today, in which it will facilitate short workshops for students on environmental racism, worker struggles in the fossil fuel industry and the role of capitalism in undermining popular democracy.

James said that the teach-in will make students even more aware of the issue of divestment.

“I think the [teach-in] is going to go well,” James said. “We’re continuing to assert our presence through all of the days of the board meeting.”

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