Eight members of GU Fossil Free presented a formal proposal calling for the university to divest from fossil fuel companies during a meeting of the university’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility on Monday afternoon, while about 35 students and staff members rallied outside of McShain Lounge in support of the divestment plan.
The committee said that it will most likely vote on the proposal at the end of the academic year, according to GU Fossil Free member Caroline James (COL ’16).
“The chair of the committee today told us in the presentation that we are probably not going to see a vote until the end of the school year, which is disappointing. But we are hoping that that’s not definite and that there can be some wiggle room to make that happen beforehand,” James said.
The proposal includes thorough research as to why the university should divest from fossil fuels. GU Fossil Free has worked on the proposal for over a year.
The group presented a proposal to University President John J. DeGioia in January 2013. After feedback from administrators, GU Fossil Free changed its plan to include staged divestment, instead of asking the university to abandon all investments in fossil fuel companies.
The Georgetown University Student Association has publicly supported the proposal since November 2013.
The Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility has never worked through a proposal like the one presented by GU Fossil Free, James said. If the committee votes in support of the proposal, it will be sent to the university’s board of directors for final approval. If the proposal is accepted, Georgetown would become be the first Jesuit university with an endowment over $1 billion to divest from fossil fuels.
“As with any proposal submitted by members of the university community on issues related to socially responsible investing, CISR will deliberate to give it full and careful consideration,” Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh wrote in an email.
GU Fossil Free member Max Menard (SFS ’16) said that he hopes that CISR considers the correlation between divestment and Georgetown’s Catholic values.
“As the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, I hope they realize that climate change caused by burning fossil fuels hurts most the global poor and future generations: the people with the smallest voice and who Pope Francis advocates most for,” Menard wrote in an email.
Those in attendance convened at 1:45 p.m. for over 45 minutes before and during the committee meeting, shouting, “We are unstoppable; another world is possible” and “We’re young, we’re strong, we’re supporting all day long.” The protesters even took to Twitter to create a hashtag: #CISRsayYes.
“Divestment can’t come soon enough. #CISRsayYes,” Lexi Dever (COL ’16), who attended the rally, tweeted.
The rally included undergraduate and graduate students as well as students from the Georgetown University Law Center campus.
“I think that various administrative groups on campus can get the feeling that we’re just a very small group of students who don’t represent the larger Georgetown community in terms of what we’re asking for,” James said. “And I do think it was very effective in being a physical presence while the committee members were walking in and thinking, ‘There is actually some pressure here.’”
Hoya Kids Learning Center staff member Nina Sherburne, a member of GU Fossil Free, said she participated in the rally to support a more sustainable future for the children she cares for.
“I take care of 2- and 3-year-olds all day long and I feel guilty trying to prepare them for a future while the institution that I work for continues to funnel money into fossil fuel companies that are destroying our planet,” Sherburne said. “So I want to work for a university that not only takes care of its children while they are here but prepares them for a future that they can live in.”
Sherburne said she was happy to be a part of a growing movement that has already been approved at 14 U.S. colleges, including Stanford University, Hampshire College and San Francisco State University.
“This movement is global, it’s massive, and it’s spreading like wildfire,” Sherburne said during the rally. “It is unstoppable, which is why we are here today.”
Laura Lannan (COL ’17), who attended the rally, said that she was happy to see representation from several groups at the protest.
“While I was at the rally, I saw students from GUSA, from College Democrats, H*yas for Choice, the law school and even some philosophy students for divestment,” Lannan wrote in an email. “I was really glad to see all of the different voices that came out in support of the movement.”
Dever said that she protested on behalf of divestment from fossil fuels in order to help to ensure a better future for the university.
“We as a university often claim to be leaders, but to be leaders, we need to lead in more ways than acceptance rate and numbers of presidential alumni,” Dever wrote in an email. “I firmly believe that our future, not just at Georgetown, lies in divestment from fossil fuels, and Georgetown has a unique opportunity to help lead us into this new, better world.”