Members of the Georgetown, Divest! coalition brought their case to the Georgetown University Student Association Senate meeting Sunday night, spurring discussion about potential changes to the university’s investment process.
Five members of Georgetown, Divest! met with Georgetown administrators on April 9, but were unable to make headway with the university.
The coalition lectured on what it called a dearth of transparency in current university investment protocol that inhibits student access to information in the Investment Office.
Jackson Perry (COL ’12), vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), told the senate that Georgetown did not engage in “socially responsible investing.” This was due, he said, to the Georgetown University Investment Office’s policy to not make public the details of its investment decisions.
Perry showed the council a screen photo of the Investment Office Web site from April 9, 2010, which displayed a paragraph stating that a Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility would “[review] all shareholder proposals on social responsibility” with the shareholders including the students at Georgetown University, according to Perry.
Perry claimed that when meeting with university administrators, “They claimed that the information on the Web site was out of date, even though it was only put up a year ago.”
He then showed another screen photo, from April 12, which showed the same passage mentioned had been deleted.
Citing a speech delivered by University President John J. DeGioia on Feb. 4, 2007, Perry said the perceived shortfalls in communication violated Georgetown policy.
Three years ago, DeGioia said, “Our heritage requires that social justice issues are never consigned to the shadows of our consciousness.”
GUSA President Calen Angert (MSB ’11) asked how many companies the coalition was examining.
Angert also asked about the feasibility of the project, saying, “These are huge funds that we’re invested in, and I doubt that all of our endowment [$1 billion] is invested in just one of them.”
SJP President Elise Garofalo (COL ’12) added that even without the approval of the Investment Office, students could write letters to the managers of the funds voicing their concern.
Senator Nick Troiano (COL ’11) was more defensive of the Investment Office.
“There are trade secrets and other rules and regulations that prevent information from being divulged,” Troiano said.
Troiano also questioned the ability of the university to reform the system, saying, “At the end of the day, you want the university to be able to say to the [investment] companies that they don’t want to invest in those companies. How do you get to that point?”
Perry responded, “Student involvement should be encouraged. As long as there is sufficient evidence, there should be a process to protest. There needs to be a way to make sure [the investment companies and the Investment Office] are telling the truth.”
Ultimately, Perry said, “We’re envisioning a resolution calling on the university to establish a process on how it does socially responsible justice. The mechanism by which students can voice concerns about the investments would be very important.”
Senator Clara Gustafson (SFS ’13) expressed her view that GUSA should become the overseer of complaints about socially responsible investments, saying, “Any student concerns [about investments] should be brought to GUSA, a resolution drafted and then a vote held.”
Troiano discussed the possibility of a resolution at the meeting the following week.
“We should support effort[s] for the mechanism to protest, but I am not so enthused that we try to force the university to say yes or no on specific companies or countries as investment choices,” Troiano said.
In other matters, Senator Colton Malkerson (COL ’13) reported that the Performing Arts Advisory Council signed an agreement with GUSA, vowing to open the election of PAAC leaders to member organizations. Now, the groups comprising PAAC will be able to veto applicants, as long as a simple majority votes against them.
**Correction:** This article originally stated that Georgetown, Divest! coalition members met with university administrators on April 13. The meeting took place on April 9.