Posts Tagged “Georgetown Divest!”
Georgetown, Divest! will re-emerge this semester to oppose the University investment policies, after attempting to end practices last semester that allegedly violate the University’s Catholic and Jesuit identity.
In a Facebook message sent to Divest! members, David Schwartz (SFS ’12), a leader of the group, criticized the University for failing to invest in a socially responsible manner.
“[W]e have been deceived to believe that ethics are a part of Georgetown’s investment history,” Schwartz wrote. “Now, as students, faculty, and clergy of Georgetown University, we must stand up for social responsibility in its investment policy.”
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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!
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At 2:30 p.m., a group of approximately fifteen students marched from Red Square to President DeGioia‘s office as part of the Georgetown Divest! campaign.
Georgetown, Divest!, a coalition comprised of Students for Justice in Palestine, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, Georgetown Buddhist Meditation Sangha, and Muslim Student Association, demands that Georgetown to end their investment of endowment money in companies guilty of human rights violations in Israel and Palestine.
During the short march to Healy Hall, the group carried signs that read, “Social Responsibility: RIP 1789-2010″ while shouting “Whose endowment? Our endowment!” They were greeted by University Chief of Staff Erik Smulson, who promised to pass the group’s letter demanding divestment on to LaMarr Billups, Assistant Vice President for Business Policy Planning.
David Schwartz (SFS ’12), a member of the protest, explained that the group is opposed to an investment policy that has no mechanism for ethical oversight of endowment investments.
As covered in previous Vox posts, University officials have explained that the University does not invest in specific companies and therefore cannot control which groups benefit from its endowment money. Nonetheless, a recent press release from Georgetown Divest! once again attacked the University, claiming, “Regardless of whether Georgetown directly invests in individual companies or invests in funds through managers, its commitment to social justice binds it to ethical and socially responsible investment.”
“If the University continues to ignore our concerns,” the press release continues, “We will return [to President DeGioia's office] each day this week to remind the administration that students will not allow the University to continue practices of socially irresponsible investing.”
The group plans to march from Red Square to Healy Hall every day this week at 2:30. “We just want the University to know we’re serious,” Sam-Geaney Moore (SFS ’12), another member of today’s protest, said.
Photo by Jackson Perry
Update, 10:34 p.m. — Vox mistakenly attributed the protest only to Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that is merely part of the Georgetown Divest! coalition.
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At this week’s meeting of the Georgetown University Student Association, Senator Greg Laverriere (COL’12) announced that a deal had been reached with the Student Activities Commission, making the advisory board eligible for money from the student activities fee. The Senate also passed a resolution encouraging socially responsible investing, discussed solutions to a funding shortage that threatens to end the weekend GUTS bus service, and (most importantly) announced an event we’ve all been anxiously waiting for—a GUSA party. Let’s get to the wrap:
Deal reached with SAC: In the beginning of the GUSA meeting, Laverriere read to the full senate the text of the agreement that had been reached with SAC. Laverriere said the agreement had been passed by the Finance and Appropriations Committee and that it could be voted upon by the full senate next week. In the agreement SAC agrees to make public any votes held for lump sum funding, which will be instituted next year, but reserves the right of closed votes for all policy and sanction votes.
GUTS bus funding shortage: In his executive briefing, GUSA President Calen Angert (MSB ’11) asked senators for ideas on how to deal with the lack of funds for the weekend GUTS bus service. The service has traditionally been funded jointly by the SAC and GUSA. Angert questioned whether GUSA was the right source of funding for the service.
“Lots of people use [the weekend GUTS buses.] Why is the student government of this school funding this?” Angert said.
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Posted by: Galen Weber in News, Vox Populi, tags: Academic Working Groups, Adam Talbot, Ben Bold, Colton Malkerson, Crime, Diversity Requirement, Georgetown Divest!, GUSA, GUSA Roundup, Jackson Perry, Nick Troiano, Safety, Sexual Assault
The majority of this week’s meeting of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate was spent considering the arguments of Georgetown, Divest!, which is pushing the University to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. The Senate also spent some time debating the Academic Working Group’s diversity requirement recommendation, but did not vote on any legislation at the meeting. Here’s the wrap:
Georgetown, Divest!: Jackson Perry (COL ’12) presented the case Georgetown, Divest! is making to the Senate in the early part of the meeting. (Disclosure: Perry is an assistant photo editor for the Voice). Perry told the senators that his group has come to the conclusion that the University has exercised little oversight over the companies it has invested in, and has no process to ensure that the University was investing only in socially responsible companies which lived up to the University’s Jesuit principles.
Perry cited an article written by the Voice‘s Cole Stangler saying, “While divestment is non-negotiable to administrators, it appears that Georgetown’s Jesuit and Catholic identity is.” Perry said his group was focusing on pushing the University to institute a process that allows it to invest in a socially responsible way, and to specifically promise not to invest in eight companies selected by Georgetown, Divest! as particularly egregious in perpetuating human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. Several senators seemed to take issue with the group’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on eight companies in particular.
“There seems to be a political agenda here as well,” GUSA Senator Nick Troiano (COL ’11) said.
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On Tuesday night, the new student group Georgetown, Divest! presented their case for University divestment from companies that they say profit from human rights violations in Israel and Palestine.
The campaign’s kick-off event came days after an April 9 meeting with officials from the Investment Office who, according to a Georgetown, Divest! press release, said that the complexity of the Georgetown’s investments prohibit it from pursuing selective divestment as a realistic goal.
“We were told the University values the maximizing of return over ethics. This is not acceptable,” said Students for Justice in Palestine VP Jackson Perry (COL ’12). (Disclosure: Perry is an assistant photo editor for the Voice).
Nonetheless, the campaign launch event, attended by roughly 40 people, pressed for the University to pursue selective divestment from several multinational corporations. Perry outlined the four categories from which the select companies could profit: “Operation on illegally occupied land, the construction and maintenance of the separation barrier, the facilitation of collective punishment including home demolition and land confiscation, and institutionalized discrimination.”
Georgetown, Divest! also called for the University to divest from the following corporations whose work they say falls within those four categories—Ahava, which is a cosmetics company, Motorola Israel, Roadstone Holdings and Riwal, both construction companies, Lockheed Martin, Caterpillar, Veolia Transportation, and Mekorot, a water company.
“Georgetown University has a tradition of social responsibility. Its investment policies must reflect its foundational values … It is not acceptable for a university dedicated to justice and social responsibility to ignore these ideals in its investments,” Perry said.
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Georgetown University has deleted two passages from its Investment Office’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page that explained how social responsibility and Georgetown’s Jesuit identity impacts its investment decisions.
The move may have been a result of discussions between members of Georgetown’s Investment Office and students from Georgetown, Divest!, the group that is pressuring Georgetown to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli presence in Palestine and human rights abuses in the region.
Vox is still working to determine whether or not the deletion was a result of their Friday meeting, where members of Divest! cited the two questions and answers as reasons to take their demands seriously. However, in that meeting, according to their press release, Senior Vice President for Strategic Development Daniel Porterfield “described this language as outdated and not in line with how the University’s processes function today.”
Here is the deleted text:
“What is Georgetown’s policy with regard to socially responsible investing?
Georgetown is strongly committed to investing in a socially responsible manner. To that end, the university Faculty Senate appoints members to the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, which is charged with reviewing all shareholder proposals on social responsibility. The Committee is comprised of ten people who form a broad representation of the university community, including members of the faculty, staff, student body, and Office of Campus Ministry.
“How does Georgetown’s Jesuit identity impact its investment decisions?
The Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, which includes one representative from the Office of Campus Ministry, takes Georgetown’s Jesuit identity into account when making decisions regarding shareholder proposals. Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the university’s Jesuit heritage is its firm belief in the importance of the freedom of intellectual thought and diversity of opinion.”
You can view an HTML copy made of the page by Georgetown, Divest! on April 9, the day of the meeting, here.
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In a press release provocatively entitled, “Georgetown University Admits Complete Lack of Oversight of Endowment Investments,” members of Georgetown, Divest!, the student coalition seeking University divestment in companies that perpetuate human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine, said that their Friday meeting with administrators revealed to them “that ethical concerns play no role in the way the university invests its endowment.”
Accusing the University of hiding behind the type of investment in which it engages to avoid ethically investing—because Georgetown invests its money through diversified funds, the group said they were told by administrators, it cannot selectively divest from ethically suspect companies—the group also said that Georgetown University’s promise to divest from companies operating in Sudan in April 2008 was misleading and false.
“[Lawrence Kochard, the Chief Investment Officer] disputed that the University had released any statement of divestment from companies operating in Sudan. Indeed, upon review of University statements released at the time, it appears that the University used this loophole of “direct investment” versus investment through fund managers to mislead the student body into believing that action had taken place and silence student advocates,” the release said. “The university rarely invests directly in individual companies, so its April 2008 declaration that it had zero direct investment in companies operating in Sudan had no functional impact.”
Kochard told the group, the release said, that his office does due diligence of fund managers before they are hired. The Voice has contacted several school officials and we will update this post when we hear back. Below, read the full press release from Georgetown, Divest!.
“April 9, Washington, DC- This morning, five members of the Georgetown, Divest! Coalition met with four Georgetown University administrators, Lawrence Kochard, the Chief Investment Officer, LaMarr Billups, Assistant Vice President of Business Policy Planning, Dan Porterfield, Senior Vice President for Strategic Development, and Jeanne Lord, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs.
In a meeting that lasted for over an hour, the coalition members and the administrators discussed Georgetown University’s investment strategy and whether it addresses concerns of social responsibility. CIO Larry Kochard emphasized that Georgetown University generally does not directly invest in individual companies, but rather in funds overseen by managers whose actions are guided by certain allocation and risk policies set forth by the Investment Office. Therefore, he argued, Georgetown University cannot divest from the several companies the coalition is highlighting, because the University is not directly invested in them.
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A new group that is made up of several student clubs at Georgetown is pushing the University administration to selectively divest in companies that perpetuate human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine or profit from the Israelis’ presence in Palestine.
Georgetown, Divest!, which includes clubs like Georgetown Student for Justice in Palestine, Georgetown Solidarity Committee, the Muslim Students Association, and Buddhist Meditation Sangha, according to the group’s Facebook page, will kick off their campaign next Tuesday with a panel including several Georgetown professors and a “a public presentation about Georgetown’s moral obligation to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations and the unlawful occupation of Palestinian territory,” according to a press release from the coalition.
Divest! has already gotten at least one response from the Georgetown administration to their demands. During spring break, Assistant Vice President for Business Policy Planning LaMarr Billups e-mailed the group a letter then Georgetown, Divest! said is “vague” and “does not adequately address the concerns of the group.” In the letter, which Divest! has posted on their blog, Billups clarifies University investment policy.
Members of Divest! will also meet with administrators today. Citing students’ historical success in pressuring Georgetown to divest from Sudan during the Darfur crisis and South Africa during apartheid, Georgetown, Divest! says it will make Georgetown a “relevant player in this grassroots movement for change. SJP encourages the Board of Trustees to acknowledge Georgetown’s commitment to social justice and human rights.”
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