GU Fossil Free, a campus student group advocating for Georgetown University to adopt socially responsible investment policies, submitted a proposal Jan. 16 calling for Georgetown to completely divest its $1.5 billion endowment fund from all fossil fuel energy companies.
The proposal calls on the university to cease all new investments in fossil fuels, with the goal of completely divesting from fossil fuel companies in 2024.
Investing in fossil fuel violates Georgetown’s Socially Responsible Investment policy passed in 2017, according to Samantha Panchèvre (SFS ’19), a member of GUFF.
“With climate change, our argument is that it’s not a political concept,” Panchèvre said. “It’s happening to everyone, it’s not controversial and right now we have money that is directly supporting climate change. We want our degrees to be fossil free.”
GUFF has previously successfully petitioned the university to alter its investment practices. In November 2017, the group submitted a proposal for the university to divest from tar sands, which the university accepted after a meeting of the board of directors in June 2018. GUFF also petitioned the university to divest from fossil fuels in 2012. The 2012 petition has garnered over 3,000 signatures, including those of 176 faculty members.
While the university has removed all investments in coal and tar sands, which consist of a mixture of sand, clay, water and bitumen, from its endowment, the proposal says full divestment of fossil fuel energy companies would build upon initiatives the university has already started.
“Divestment from all fossil fuels would give Georgetown more credibility as the University pursues other sustainability projects, including the compost.
pilot program in Leo’s Dining Hall, the planning effort for more sustainable campus waste systems, and the ambition to source more of the campus’s energy from renewable resources,” the petition reads.
The proposal is the latest on-campus push for the university to embrace sustainable investment practices. It comes as students nationwide are petitioning their universities to remove any investments in companies producing carbon-based energy from their endowments. Several campuses have committed to fully divest from fossil fuels, including Pitzer College in California and Seattle University in Washington, the first Jesuit institution to commit to full divestment.
The university has officially recognized the proposal, according to university spokesperson Matt Hill.
“Georgetown University takes seriously matters related to social responsibility and its investments,” Hill wrote in a statement to The Hoya.
The university’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, which is made up of students, administrators and faculty, reviews proposals relating to the SRI and is set to consider GUFF’s proposal at its next meeting Feb. 24, according to Hill.
Georgetown’s 2017 SRI Policy ensures that the university’s investments fall in line with its commitment to stewardship for the planet and social justice, among other Jesuit values. The policy instructs Georgetown to avoid investments in companies whose practices have significantly harmful effects on the environment.
The university’s current practices do not match both its previous policies and Jesuit values, the Jan. 17 divestment proposal reads.
“The fossil fuel industry’s negative environmental, social, and financial impacts violate Georgetown’s Socially Responsible Investing policy, which warrant its full divestment,” the proposal reads. “In doing so, the University would demonstrate its commitment once again to our Jesuit values and to our moral and environmental leadership.”
Georgetown would become the second Jesuit university to divest fully from fossil fuels and would become the first institution in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, a group of 35 colleges committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of students, to fully divest from fossil fuels. COFHE universities include Harvard, MIT, Stanford and Yale, among others.
The proposal specifically cites the Catholic Divestment Network, an association of student campaigns at Catholic institutions that pushes for the exclusion of fossil fuel investments from endowments. The CDN aims to connect campaigns from Catholic universities working on similar initiatives promoting sustainability
Panchèvre has high hopes for GUFF’s environmentally friendly initiatives.
“I hope that Georgetown fully divests from fossil fuels, and that our campaign transforms more into an endowment transparency campaign, which attempts to bridge the gap between students and higher level administration, and advocates for clean energy investments,” Panchevre said.