GUSA Senate endorses GU Fossil Free proposal as part of divestment campaign

DSC_0028Yesterday, GUSA endorsed GU Fossil Free’s proposal entitled “Divesting Georgetown’s Endowment from Fossil Fuels.” Members of GU Fossil Free attended the Senate’s Sunday meeting to present their proposal, leaving Vox with a seat on the floor and a bruise on her behind. Despite GUSA’s rule requiring proposals to be submitted 48 hours before the start of a meeting, GU Fossil Free’s was submitted 53 minutes prior.

The proposal asks Georgetown to divest its holdings from 200 of the largest fossil fuel companies, to freeze all new investments in these companies within the next two years, and to release public biannual reports on the divestment process.

“The urgency of our proposal stems from the fossil fuel industry’s heavy implication in the plight of the global climate as well as in a multitude of health and human rights violations worldwide,” the proposal reads.

GU Fossil Free cited real numbers—something most Georgetown students don’t know what to do with—to back its cause: the average temperature of the planet has risen by .8° C over the last century. It also cited a UN report to support its claim that the divestment will not negatively impact the University’s endowment.

Debate ensued among the senators over the potential impact on the University’s endowment. Vice Speaker Sam Greco (SFS ’15) said, “Endowment is not the place to make that statement. Especially at Georgetown where our endowment, relative to schools of our stature, is very low … it should be allowed to grow.” Greco’s argument resonates with a common concern of the Georgetown community: a comparatively feeble endowment. GU Fossil Free told senators that Georgetown will join other respectable universities, such as Harvard and Yale, if it participates in this movement. However, senators could not help but ask the million-dollar question: where’s the money coming from?

Should the University cut scholarship funds and kill students’ dreams of normal-sized (not dessert-sized) forks at Leo’s in order to save the environment?

GU Fossil Free answered with a resounding yes. The group argued that Georgetown’s Jesuit commitment to social justice places the University in a position of responsibility. The proposal harkens to a similar morality-infused situation in 1986 in which the University decided to pull its holdings from American companies that were conducting business in the apartheid-era South Africa. Such a comparison struck a cord with some senators.

“This is one of the biggest [decisions] we can make … in the 21st century that defend not only Jesuit values and responsibilities, but also defend them in this day and age,” Senator Chris Fisk (COL ’17) said.

GU Fossil Free and senators alike conceded that the proposal will not change Georgetown’s investment portfolio overnight. Rather, they emphasized that the tide of public opinion needed to change.

After almost an hour of debate, senators voted 17-6 to pass the proposal.

Photo: Isabel Echarte/Georgetown Voice

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