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

Get Off the Stage

During World Bank president Jim Yong Kim’s speech at Gaston Hall on March 18, GU Fossil Free stormed the stage, presenting a banner that quoted Kim: “Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right & national investment policies are in place” and “Divest now GU Fossil Free.”

Kim was present on campus to discuss climate change, a matter central to GU Fossil Free’s mission, but the actions taken by the student group last Wednesday demonstrate an unfortunate misappropriation of values and a disrespect. GU Fossil Free must take greater care to exhibit and advocate their cause without alienating students.

From numerous on-campus protests to attempting to forcibly enter a meeting of the university board of directors last month, storming the stage during President Kim’s speech is the latest in a series of headline-grabbing incidents this year.

GU Fossil Free’s passion for the issues of climate change and divestment is palpable, valiant and commendable, but the group must pick their battles more rationally.

There is a line between enthusiastic advocacy and unnecessary disruption of the community. Gaston Hall is a respected space. Performing and speaking there, as well as even attending events there, is a special experience. But as one of the oldest community spaces on campus, Gaston Hall and its credibility must be protected by the university.

It is incidents like these that damage the entire university’s reputation. Even if the demonstration was in solidarity with the issue to which Kim spoke and used Kim’s own words to articulate a stand against climate change, it is disrespectful and counterintuitive, objectively speaking, to create a scene in order to advocate an issue.
The tactics used by GU Fossil Free unnecessarily dramatize the issues at hand, as well as draw attention from those issues that are just as important.

Additionally, rather than causing students to reflect and demand divestment, the strategies employed by GU Fossil Free only engender discussion on the nature of such tactics.

It is a statement in itself that media coverage of last Wednesday was not centered around President Kim’s visit, or even climate change itself, but around a student group’s storming of Gaston Hall’s stage. GU Fossil Free must prioritize fostering genuine dialogue within the student body instead of relying on the shock effect of storming the stage.

Protests and stormings could be exchanged for town halls or open meetings to give interested non-members a voice.

It should be important to GU Fossil Free that in the months leading up to the Committee on Investment and Social Responsibility’s February vote that engendered these protests, hundreds of students signed the petition demanding the Georgetown divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, and both The Hoya and The Voice published editorials calling for divestment in solidarity with GU Fossil Free.

This is an issue that remains important to the student body; there should be no reason to rely on attention-grabbing tactics to move a cause forward. The focus should instead be placed upon the issue itself and what the student body as a whole can do to convince the university to make the right decision.
Change can be advocated for effectively in myriad ways other than those being currently utilized by this student group.

We urge GU Fossil Free to change their methods of advocacy and better create a space for real dialogue or risk losing the support they have within the Georgetown community.

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  • M

    Mark NollMar 27, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Agree with Dylan on all of his points. I just really don’t understand where the Hoya is coming from in this editorial. I’m wondering how many people at the Hoya actually read and signed off on it.

    First off, I attended this event and was quoted in this article:, which is only partly indicative of my opinions on divestment – I’m actually all for it so long as it doesn’t hurt our endowment. I know it won’t affect these companies at all, but I get its symbolic importance and laud most efforts to get support behind carbon pricing, because we’re gonna need all the help we can get. If it does really hurt our financial prospects, then I don’t think we should go forward with it – it’s just not worth hurting students here for purely symbolic purposes.

    All that aside, colleges need this type of activism, and this was a demonstration that I fully support, unlike instances at other institutions of suppressing free speech and debate. GUFF acted responsibly and calmly. They most definitely did not “storm the stage” at Gaston Hall – instead, they walked up and displayed a banner with a quote from Jim Kim. They left when asked, didn’t disrupt the conversation (apart from an odd glance by Kim, and even asked him a very good question following his prepared remarks, although I’m not sure they liked the response too much.

    I think the Hoya was just really trying to make a big deal out of nothing here, and it really backfired. Hopefully they can issue a clarification either affirming this editorial or revising it, because I get the sense that they might want a second shot at this one.

  • R

    RealityCheckMar 26, 2015 at 6:36 am

    It’s hilarious to watch all the GUFF people stuff the comments and claim the article is poorly written. Look, whether the article is poorly written or not–in my opinion, it’s not; it’s competently put together–the point is clear: stop trying to squelch others’ speech. It’s out-of-bounds behavior–as much as would be, for example, going to a GUFF event and shouting down GUFF members. Don’t like what’s being said? Challenge it with dialogue during Q&A, with counter-programming, with written pieces, with protests outside the speaking forum, etc.

  • A

    ATMar 25, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    There’s a thoughtful case to be made that GUFF should not have protested in this way, but this isn’t it. Terrible editorial yet again.

  • A

    anonMar 25, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    This is the worst writing I’ve ever seen, surpassed only by the awful content.

  • D

    Dylan GaffneyMar 25, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    “There is a line between enthusiastic advocacy and unnecessary disruption of the community.”

    Correct, that line is the fortress that protects the status quo. The writers of this editorial must feel very cozy within that fortress.

    “It is disrespectful and counterintuitive, objectively speaking, to create a scene in order to advocate an issue.”


    “The tactics uses by GU Fossil Free unnecessarily dramatize the issues at hand, as well as draw attention from those issues that are just as important.”

    What exactly, Hoya, would meet but not exceed the necessary dramatization of ecological catastrophe?

    I’m no advocate, but I’m embarrassed to go to a school whose student publication writes this condescending nonsense.

  • A

    AU AlumMar 25, 2015 at 10:12 am

    This letter from the Editorial Board is so arrogant. As Martin Luther King once said, “The Time is always Right to do what is Right.” It almost sounds like a case of sour grapes by some at Georgetown.

  • C

    COL15Mar 25, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Thank God that people fighting for social change ignore this kind of misguided activism-stifling advice regularly. Good for GUFF for their work to “unnecessarily dramatize the issues at hand,” and to recognize that climate change is quite literally the largest threat to our planet that we face.

  • S

    SFS 2015Mar 24, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    “Objectively speaking,” the writing in this piece is awkward as all hell.

  • I

    In Defense of GUFFMar 24, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    • S

      ScaevolaMar 25, 2015 at 11:12 am

      “Politeness is the enemy of progress. This is a lesson Georgetown students need to learn, especially if they are interested in affecting [sic] positive change on campus. We as a student body need to shed the respect for authority instilled in us by our bourgeois education and pre-professional culture. We need to learn that circumspect pleading and gentle prodding never produce results. We need to be willing to mobilize our bodies, take risks, and be rude for justice.”

      You have got to be kidding me. These are the same people who compare themselves to noble activists of the past, like Dr. King and Rosa Parks. Do you honestly believe that MLK would tell his supporters that politeness will get them nowhere?

      Perhaps GUFF should realize that aside from a few hard core activists, their “movement” is never really going to get off the ground and into the mainstream. Desperate, attention-grabbing actions such as this only reinforce the idea that they are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

      • A

        AU AlumMar 25, 2015 at 3:53 pm

        @Scaevola: How do you know that the [GU] Divestment movement will never get off the ground? WHO ARE YOU but just another nay-sayer? Beyond the moral issues involved with divestment, the movement is growing stronger by the day due to the increasing awareness of the overvalue of fossil fuel stock, especially coal. (i.e. carbon bubble)

      • H

        Hilary GUFFMar 25, 2015 at 7:09 pm

        You know Rosa Parks and Dr. King broke laws and held huge public actions to get their points across, right? GUFF held a nonviolent protest. Let’s not be overdramatic about this.

  • A

    A StudentMar 24, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    The first intelligent thing the Hoya editorial board has published all year. Note to Fossil Free: If people actually cared about your economically illiterate and moronic ideas, they would go to your events and protest nonsense with you. They were there to see the President of the Word Bank, a person far more important than any of you will ever be. Your voice is not the same as his when speaking about climate change.

  • S

    SFS 2016Mar 24, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    What’s up with Georgetown’s fetish for “professionalism”? Every criticism of GUFF I have read boils down to smarmy hand-wringing about form and tone. Just fyi, not everybody’s idea of success is fitting perfectly into the officially approved channels for getting things down.

    Also, the writing in this article is terrible.

    • K

      KatherineMar 25, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      Agree with SFS 2016 completely. If The Hoya’s trying to say that we should be focusing on the issue, not the showmanship, than why waste your article complaining about how this protest hurt your feelings? Write about the issue! Typical of The Hoya, typical of Georgetown.