GU Fossil Free successfully scheduled a meeting with University President John J. DeGioia to discuss divestment options for the university after a meeting with DeGioia’s Chief of Staff Joseph Ferrara (GRD ’96) Thursday and a rally Friday.
At the meeting with Ferrara, GU Fossil Free demanded to meet with the DeGioia within the next week in order to have its proposal put forward to the university’s board of directors during their February 2015 meeting.
Although Ferrara was unable to schedule a meeting with DeGioia by next week since DeGioia will be in Tokyo for most of the week, he was able to secure a meeting for GU Fossil Free for Nov. 25.
Despite Ferrara’s agreement, GU Fossil Free followed through with a rally in Red Square and a march to DeGioia’s office in Healy Hall on Friday, demanding to meet with DeGioia. At the office, the students were again greeted by Ferrara who informed them that DeGioia was not on campus at that time.
Around 20 students attended the rally, including those from other campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Hoyas United for Free Speech. The students carried signs that said “Say Yes To Divest” and“1,700 Hoyas for Divestment.”
The group requested photographic proof that they had indeed stormed the office. DeGioia’s secretary obliged, and snapped a panoramic photo of the protesters and their signage.
During Thursday’s meeting with Ferrara, GU Fossil Free member Patricia Cipollitti (SFS ’15) expressed her frustration with the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility’s decision to not meet again until next semester, therefore delaying the process. She added that this contributes to GU Fossil Free’s need to speak with DeGioia.
“It’s clear that [CISR] won’t vote on it in time, so we wanted to speak to the president to convince him of the urgency of this issue and why time is of the essence for us to get on the board of directors meeting in February because we think that the CISR is unresponsive to that urgency,” Cipollitti said.
GU Fossil Free member Theo Montgomery (SFS ’17) said divestment would benefit the endowment.
“We do think that it will actually give us more [money] than traditional oil and coal investments in the future,” Montgomery said. “We think that it will actually perform better.”
Once the group reached the office, Ferrara passed on a letter that DeGioia addressed to GU Fossil Free, lauding the group’s efforts and agreeing to meet with them.
“I will be working with my colleagues on the days ahead to determine the most efficient and appropriate way to bring this matter before our board of directors,” DeGioia wrote.
Ferrara emphasized DeGioia’s intentions of cooperating with GU Fossil Free in future meetings.
“He definitely wants to meet with you. He wants to have a conversation. He wants to talk about the best and most appropriate way to get [the proposal] in front of the board of directors,” Ferrara told GU Fossil Free members.
GU Fossil Free member Mandy Lee (SFS ’17) said she felt GU Fossil Free was at a tipping point for completing its objectives, and that divestment would be a political statement for the university.
“Divestment essentially is withdrawing our investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies,” Lee said. “What it would do is express our commitment to social responsibility in a really important way. … In a way our investments in these companies are very small. We’re a drop in the bucket, but what this does is make a huge political statement.”
Cippolliti said that she counted the day as a win for divestment and expected future success.
“I think it went well and that we made the right decision to continue on with the action because the administration responded to our requests after we had met with them but they did so because we expressed to them there was going to be a demonstration,” Cipolliti said.