University responds to Georgetown Divest! before today’s protest

As they promised yesterday, Georgetown Divest! took another  trip from Red Square to President John DeGioia‘s office this afternoon. But, the 10 members of today’s protest did not know that the University had responded with a preemptive with e-mail beforehand.

The protest began at 2:30 p.m., but members of Georgetown Divest! has not checked the coalition group’s e-mail account immediately beforehand. The members of the coalition discovered afterward that LaMarr Q. Billups, the Assistant Vice President of Business Policy and Planning, had responded via e-mail at 12:45 p.m.

“We checked [the e-mail account] over an hour ago and it was empty,” Sam Geaney-Moore (SFS, ’12), a member of Georgetown Divest!, said during the protest.

The group were met by Janet T. Pfister, an Executive Assistant in the Office of the President. Pfister told the group, “Everybody’s in a meeting that just started, so you’re stuck with me today,” while adding that “I was told that a response [to Georgetown Divest!] was given by LaMarr Billups.”

In the letter, Billups writes, “The [Investment] Office invests in commingled managed funds … divestment of individual funds is not possible, and divestment from funds that may or may not at any given moment hold investments in specific companies is not practicable.”

Billups also referred the coalition to its April 9 meeting with University officials, writing, “At that meeting you asked if Georgetown University would divest … The answer to that question is no.”

In an e-mail sent to Vox, Geaney-Moore responded to Billup’s letter, writing, “This letter does not constitute a good faith response to student concerns, it is a response that the coalition does not accept, and we will continue to pressure the University to recognize that morality should be considered at all in university investment decisions.”

After the jump, read Assistant Vice President Billups’ complete letter to Georgetown Divest!

University response to Georgetown Divest!

Photo by Jackson Perry (Disclosure: In addition to being the Voice‘s Photo Editor, Jackson is a member of Georgetown Divest!)

24 Comments on “University responds to Georgetown Divest! before today’s protest

  1. It’s funny how the same people seem to protest all the same things. Those who are passionate about Georgetown Divest were many of the same people involved in the Plan B protest…and the DPS wages protests…and the hate crimes protests in the fall…and the Farmworker Freedom march…and the David Patraeus interruption stunt. I am not saying that these people (who I think are more formally known as Georgetown Solidarity Committee) are fighting bad fights, but they are fighting every fight. I find it hard to believe that they are passionate about all of these causes. So in the end a lot of people, including me, stop paying attention to them and see them more as a nuisance.

  2. while i’m just as annoyed by these people, i think it shows a trend -the goddamned , fucking administration doesn’t give a frog’s shit for the students’ concerns

  3. “[T]here are a wide range of opinions on the conflict in the Middle East and the appropriate way for Georgetown University to address the situation is through dialogue, research, and intellectual discovery.”

    Very well put. Even if it were practical/possible to divest from specific companies allegedly profiting from Israel’s human rights abuses (it’s not), surely it’s not an unreasonable view that the problems in the Middle East are complex issues with many groups at fault. It’s hardly Georgetown’s role to adopt SJP’s simplistic, one-sided view of the situation. We’re an educational institution and should address the situation by [see above quote].

  4. I agree with “Not Sympathetic” and would like to further add that the Voice does a terrible job of hiding its bias. Let’s look back at the past year: every one of these protests and response letters has been heavily covered, even when the level of student interest doesn’t really necessitate the level of coverage. How many students actually fundamentally care enough about Georgetown Divest? Does it warrant this level of coverage on Vox? I think not (granted, I know one of Vox’s photographers is in the mix). Finally, just look at this protest group’s most cringe-inducing activity: the Petraeus Protest. Vox, despite the student reaction to the protest, never covered the event. This clearly indicates that Vox has an agenda and is overly-sympathetic to this pathetic group of wannabes.

    PS. I understand the whole thing about wanting to divest from companies that behave immorally, but what about divesting from companies that operate in China? or in Venezuela? or perhaps Zimbabwe? I just find it very interesting that the focus of this group is on Israel…given the political goals of the members involved, it’s hardly shocking.

  5. Also, based on the picture, this is a generally unattractive group of sad looking dudes, all of whom are probably just trying to get on those two cute blonds at the front.

  6. Is it definitively established that the people behind Georgetown, Divest! were also behind Petraeus Protest and the other protests?

    I think this is an issue the Voice (and the Hoya) should investigate, if true. If it’s the same (10, 15, 20) people behind several protests on diverse issues, that should be noted – especially if that seems to be the majority of their active support. And, as Common Sense says, by presenting Gtown Divest as a non-partisan group, it’s worth seeing what events its members have been involved in in the past.

  7. [Comment deleted by editor due to impersonation.]

  8. Does it not bother these comment-ers that Georgetown has absolutely no moral oversight over its investments?

    http://investments.georgetown.edu/index.html

    Scroll through that page. You won’t find anything about social justice or social responsibility. I understand the divestment campaign seems to be linked to SJP…but I think that’s more a product of the fact that it was one of the only group that actually took responsibility to do something about Georgetown’s incredibly troubling policies. Why should it not also stand up for the injustices Palestinians face every day? Most importantly, SJP is not the only group involved in the campaign.

  9. Georgetown, Divest! is a coalition, and the Solidarity Committee is a part of the coalition. It actually takes a lot of energy to do this, so I don’t think people protest for selfish reasons.

    Georgetown, Divest! attempts to reach the campus community constructively and does not support the tactic of interrupting guests visiting the university.

    With SJP as the founder of the divestment movement, no one claimed that there was no bias. However, it is true that this is NOT an anti-Israeli campaign – it targets the companies that knowingly violate human rights to make a profit.

    MOST IMPORTANTLY – the university cares more about making a profit than upholding the values we’ve all been taught our school represents. Regardless of which human rights issue you feel most passionate about, the fact is that this divestment campaign is the only one on campus. If this campaign can pressure the university to enact ethical oversight of investments, then anyone who feels strongly about an issue can have a way of bringing their concerns to the university. It’s not impossible to make money and still invest in a way that doesn’t perpetuate human rights abuses, and the university insults the intelligence of its students by claiming they can’t balance social responsibility with investments. There are plenty of other organizations that have divested and we are showing the university their example: the Presbyterian Churches of the USA, the World Council of Churches, Hampshire College, etc. There are also many other Jesuit institutions that have successfully balanced the necessity of profits with the responsibility as Catholic institutions to uphold the values they were founded on.

  10. Take a shower. Cut your hair. Shave your shitty beard. Do some research about the plausibility of instituting your demands. Put on a suit. Have a reasonable meeting and make a reasonable argument. I’m fine with that. THAT is how the world works. Maybe the average student wouldn’t view you as such a bizarre fringe if you made an effort to market yourselves correctly. I disagree with you, but I would at least respect you if you acted respectable.

  11. Also, if the University actually made the crazy changes you propose, would you be ok with a large tuition increase to make up for the lost investment income? Or how about a roll-back of the living wage for which your predecessor had a fake hunger strike?

  12. Elise,

    Your point about how this was started by SJP but is really about something broader sounds like a smokescreen. At its base, this Divestment Campaign, which is part of a larger movement to divest from Israel, IS about Israel.

    I also think that if the university were to divest from every organization that profited in some way from what you nebulously refer to “human rights abuses,” there’d be nobody left to invest in. When you consider that the situation in Israel is no worse, even if you believe the worst, than it is anywhere else in the Middle East, much of Asia or most of Africa, what’s left to invest in?

    I’d really like to hear a full list of all the conflicts / nations that you’d like us to divest from, so that we can go about figuring out just how impactful this would be if it were even possible.

  13. Actually, the group did have a meeting with university officials. You’d know that if you were actually informed.

    You’d know that the university has since removed its FAQ’s relating to social responsibility on its investment website.

    You’d know that despite championing its Catholic and Jesuit values, the university refuses to institute any formal and transparent oversight to ensure its investments are socially responsible.

    You’d know that it indeed is possible to maintain high profitability while also being socially responsible.

    You’d know that the group is not a fringe group, but is supported by numerous Georgetown organizations, as well as Jesuits and professors on campus.

    I encourage you to check out the website: http://georgetowndivest.wordpress.com/

    Thanks!

  14. Isn’t the use of “Georgetown” part of A2B?

  15. The use of “Georgetown University” is part of A2B. The University doesn’t have any rights over the name “Georgetown”.

  16. Once again, Divest refers people to their website to get the whole story. And, once again, their website makes no mention of the violence and constant threat of annihilation from neighboring nations. You cannot have a fair argument on this issue without recognizing that the goal of Israel’s enemies is the complete destruction of Israel while the goal of Israel, while perhaps not being achieved in a harmless way, is survival.

  17. Israel has had normalized relationships with Egypt since the late 1970s. Israel has beat the hell out of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan in multiple wars, and there is simply no “neighboring nations” threat anymore. Israel has the most superb military in the region by far, thanks to American tax dollars. Iran is the one threat, as it can act through Hamas and Hizbollah and also with a potential nuclear capability, but Israel in 2006 and 2008 showed it would not hold back against either of those two groups, and it has a powerful nuclear capability of its own.

    The settlements have harmed Israeli security dramatically and made the country hostage to the whims of an ultra-nationalist right wing, like France in the 1950s during the Algerian national rebellion. The ultimate fact is the more Israel takes over the West Bank, through military curfews and lockdowns, through the settlements, through control of resources, the less safe and more oppressive Israel will become.

  18. “It actually takes a lot of energy to do this, so I don’t think people protest for selfish reasons.”

    Yeah it really takes a lot of courage and energy to yell at passersby. “Look at me, I’m doing something important!”

    And for those of you who decided to celebrate Georgetown day early: social justice, social justice, social justice.

  19. Choosing marketing, branding, and constraining, substance-devoid social norms over morality?

    Not wearing a suit and having a beard doesn’t make these people uninformed or unjust. Thinking that it does proves your ignorance and lack of human decency.

  20. I don’t understand why you, or anybody else for that matter, would try to make this into a joke.

    While you are getting drunk on Georgetown Day mocking those who are trying to do something about human rights violations people are suffering.

    More people need to care about that fact and actively try to change it.

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