GU Fossil Free responds to Board’s decision 

Response to Board of Directors’ Decision on Divestment04 June 2015

From its inception, GU Fossil Free has been guided by a single goal: to advocate for the divestment of Georgetown’s endowment from the top 200 oil, coal, and gas companies based on proven carbon reserves. The rationale for divestment at Georgetown lies in both climate justice and the University’s Jesuit roots. Georgetown has made enormous strides in recent years to become more sustainable and, simultaneously, its beliefs have demanded that it support social justice for all peoples around the world. As the effects of climate change become more pronounced globally, the need for fundamental, systemic change has also become more clear. The divestment movement is a major driver in the conversation that will ultimately move the world away from a crippling dependency on fossil fuels. For Georgetown, divestment offers a way for the University to realign its endowment with its moral values: if Georgetown professes to care for all people as a Jesuit university, its endowment should work to not only grow fiscally, but also be representative of the world the University ethically supports and cares to create. 
In light of today’s decision of the Georgetown University Board of Directors only to divest from direct investments in coal companies, which as the resolution itself states represents an “insubstantial portion of the endowment,” GU Fossil Free maintains that this is not a victory. Georgetown’s direct investments in coal, oil, and gas, as opposed to those in commingled funds, represent only about 2% of the endowment. Therefore, at this moment, we cannot say what portion of the endowment will be divested from coal, but we know it is very small. As a top administrator said to us, “coal investments weren’t such great investments to begin with.” It is evident that the University made its decisions for mostly financial and public relations reasons. If the Board had made their decision for principally moral reasons, then they would have supported full divestment from both direct and commingled funds from coal, oil, and gas companies. If Georgetown understands coal investments to be immoral, the only reason not to divest from commingled funds which include coal would be because doing so is more logistically difficult than divesting from direct investments, a meager excuse considering the urgency of the climate crisis. 
Today, Georgetown decided to continue investing in commingled coal, oil, and gas funds, as well as keep its direct investments in oil and gas companies. This decision is morally indefensible. It relies on indiscriminate moral distinctions between coal and oil/gas companies and greatly weakens the political tactic that divestment provides. GUFF’s proposal targets the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies, as determined by the potential carbon emissions content of their proven reserves. The decision for this particular metric is not arbitrary. While companies on this list arguably do apply varying degrees of ethical discretion to some aspects of their governance, the fact remains that not one of them will elect, of their own accord, to cease extraction operations in the foreseeable future. By divesting from only direct coal holdings, Georgetown has legitimized commingled coal funds and oil/gas as socially just and morally responsible investments – which is indefensible, because these companies’ products pose just as severe a threat to global human rights.
As a university with strong roots in Catholic social teaching and Jesuit identity, Georgetown has an obligation to align its investment practices with its espoused ideal of a life lived in service of others. Pope Francis explicitly called upon those in “positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life” to act as “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” Retaining investments in the fossil fuel industry flies in the face of the University’s commitments to vulnerable communities around the world and to future generations. 

We thank the Board for helping us begin this process of examining the consequences of our investments, and for the tiny step of divesting from direct coal investments, but they did not make the right decision: Georgetown University has decided to continue immoral investments, actively undermining its Jesuit values and global reputation as a moral leader. Our endowment continues to facilitate an energy economy and global power structure that does not serve the poor, those fighting for clean air and water, small farmers trying to make a living in a rapidly deteriorating climate, or our children and grandchildren. This is unacceptable. 
GU Fossil Free looks forward to urging Georgetown to make the right decision.
Sincerely,
The members of the GU Fossil Free Coalition 

GUFF Student Conduct Statement

On March 18, three GU Fossil Free members peacefully demonstrated on the Gaston Hall stage. Upon the conclusion of Dr. Jim Yong Kim’s address, they climbed up to the stage and held a banner quoting a statement he had previously made about climate change. These three members were physically escorted off of the stage and out of Gaston Hall by several GUPD officers and Judy D. Johnson, Director of Student Conduct. The three GU Fossil Free members are now facing two charges under the provisions of the Code of Student Conduct, whose validity is dubious at best in regards to University policy. Moreover, if pressed, the charges threaten to set an alarming precedent of restricting the free speech of members of the Georgetown University community. Below is the official opinion we have submitted to Ms. Johnson in response to these charges.

29 March 2015

We, Elaine Colligan (SFS ‘15), Patricia Cipollitti (SFS ‘15), and Chloe Lazarus (COL ‘16), submit the following statement for review regarding the proposed charges filed by the Director of Student Conduct, Judy D. Johnson. These are: (1) Unauthorized Access; and (2) Failure to Comply with University Official or Law Enforcement Officer.

FIRST: Our act of peaceful protest, silently holding a banner on the Gaston Hall stage on March 18th, did not violate any University policy regarding unauthorized access to restricted spaces. There are no official stipulations that prohibit members of the University community from entering this space, nor can it be reasonably inferred that access is prohibited or restricted: the intent of unauthorized access, as is stated in the Code of Student Conduct, is to protect spaces vital to the day-to-day functioning of the University such as electrical closets and construction zones.  The stage of Gaston Hall is not such a space. Instead, it is a community platform integral to the free interchange of ideas, including those of students. It is clear to us that the charges that have been levied against us are grounded in concern over respectability rather than violation of statute, and we believe it groundless to conflate these two.

By arguing that the stage was restricted on the basis of the level of disruption that we created, the University administration has necessarily invoked our rights to express our views, not the danger that we posed to ourselves or others by accessing this space. Therefore, the question raised by our actions is whether University policies allow speech and expression on the stage, a question governed not by Code of Conduct, but rather the Speech and Expression Policy. Based on our reading of the Policy, we are convinced that our rights to protest on the Gaston Hall stage were, and continue to be, protected by University policy.

The Speech and Expression Policy of Georgetown University states, “Expressive activities planned and executed with the intention of protesting an event, policy or other concept can take place in all campus locations, regardless of whether the space has been reserved for that purpose, as long as the actions do not violate other University policies, disrupt University business, or curtail the free speech rights of others” (Section II, part E; emphasis ours). We do not believe that our action disrupted University business. We did not obstruct the view of any speakers, nor did we impede the ability of any speakers to express themselves. In addition, we did not pose any danger to anyone at the event. We seriously consulted this Policy, and other University policies, before our action, and we remain staunch in our belief that our actions were protected by the Speech and Expression Policy.

SECOND: The subsequent charge, Failure to Comply with University Officials or Law Enforcement Officer, is null and void in light of the invalidity of the first charge. University officials only have the right to ask students to move out of spaces if access to these has been previously deemed “restricted.” As the Gaston Hall stage is not one of these spaces, University officials–including both GUPD officers and the Director of Student Conduct–did not have the authority to ask us to move from our place of peaceful protest. Furthermore, given GUPD’s history of poor enforcement of free speech policies (see Speech & Expression Committee opinions), we were understandably hesitant to comply with GUPD’s orders. Most importantly, we believe we did not have any obligation to comply if we were being asked to do something that is not prohibited within the scope of University policy.

As has been demonstrated, the charges levied against us are unreasonable and decidedly without grounding. Furthermore, they are insidious. They undermine the twin aims of Georgetown as a university: the pursuit of the common good and the free exchange of ideas. Regarding the first of these: as members of GU Fossil Free, we have been urging the University for nearly three years to align its investment practices with the moral commitments our Jesuit institution claims to uphold. The University has so far failed to do so. Our act of protest served to further our campaign’s goal to rid Georgetown’s endowment of investments that contravene our responsibilities to the world’s most vulnerable and to future generations. Regarding the second aim: we contend that our removal from the Gaston Hall stage made it “impossible for [us] to speak or be heard or seen” (Preamble, 6) and obstructed the free exchange of ideas. As such, our removal and these subsequent charges constitute “an attack on the core principles the University lives by and may not be tolerated” (Preamble, 6).  The purpose of the Code of Student Conduct is to protect students and make Georgetown an inviting place to learn, and it cannot and should not be leveraged to infringe upon rights explicitly granted to students by official University policy.  As students who stand by the merit of our contribution to the intellectual and moral life of this university, we cannot tolerate this alarming indifference to our right to express our concerns.

Signed,
Elaine Colligan
Patricia Cipollitti
Chloe Lazarus

Christina Poster Design Raster (1)

Vincent DeLaurentis Writes Response to Hoya Ed Board

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The Hoya’s editorial published March 24th, 2015.

Today, GU Fossil Free was deeply disappointed to see an editorial by The Hoya entitled “Get Off The Stage” criticizing GU Fossil Free’s recent banner drop at Jim Yong Kim’s speech on climate change at Georgetown.

However, we are also grateful to Vincent DeLaurentis, Hoyas for Choice member and one of the founders of Hoyas United for Free Speech, who wrote a letter in response to The Hoya editorial board. The letter follows below. Thank you so much, Vincent.

The Hoya Editorial Board’s recent criticism of GU Fossil Free’s action at Jim Yong Kim’s speech in Gaston, demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic organizing principles.

The Editorial Board criticized GUFF for what they saw as rash behavior in getting on the stage. The Board also called on GUFF to replace nonviolent direct action, like “stage storming,” with “town halls or open meetings.”

The funny thing is that GUFF has been holding open meetings and teach-ins for almost two years now. It is only after extinguishing all of these less-confrontational tactics that GUFF began to switch to nonviolent direct action. This is a completely valid shift when organizing a campaign, as doing the same thing over and over again without result is campaign suicide.

More concerning, the Editorial Board expressed fear that GUFF might have threatened Georgetown’s reputation and disturbed the community. Of course GUFF was threatening Georgetown’s reputation and riling the student body. By profiting off of fossil fuels, Georgetown propagates climate violence against the environment and poor and indigenous peoples. This is shameful and should hurt Georgetown’s reputation. If GUFF doesn’t pressure and shame the University on climate injustice, the University has no incentive to change its unjust behavior.

Politeness is the enemy of progress. This is a lesson Georgetown students need to learn, especially if they are interested in affecting [sic] positive change on campus. We as a student body need to shed the respect for authority instilled in us by our bourgeois education and pre-professional culture. We need to learn that circumspect pleading and gentle prodding never produce results. We need to be willing to mobilize our bodies, take risks, and be rude for justice.

If the Hoya Editorial Board wants to talk organizing tactics, they should get out of the office and into the streets.

GU Fossil Free Members Attempt to Walk in to Board Meeting

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Today, six GU Fossil Free members attempted to walk into the full body meeting of the Board of Directors. They were met with a resounding ‘no’ by university administrators. Because we believe that we deserve a seat at the table when they discuss the proposal we have been crafting and refining for over two years, we decided to read out and mic check the following statement:

“Hello Members of the Board of Directors,

We are the members of GU Fossil Free. We have felt the need to come before all of you today in order to ensure that each and every one of you hears from us why Georgetown must divest fully from the 200 companies in our proposal. We met with five of you last night, and are incredibly grateful for your thoughtful and authentic engagement. Thank you, again. It is because we sincerely respect and appreciate the time and energy each of you devote to building a better Georgetown, and because of the careful thought this body is dedicating to an issue that we students have worked tirelessly since January 2013 to bring to this table, that we believe all of you deserve to hear the student voices driving this movement.

Divestment is fundamentally about social justice. It is a reverberating act of solidarity with marginalized communities bearing the brunt of the serious harms associated with fossil fuel extraction and global climate change, and with generations to come. As a university that takes to heart its roots in Catholic social teaching and Jesuit identity, Georgetown has a commitment to these communities and to our human family. By continuing to profit from an industry so implicated in systemic injustice, we are not only condoning death and destruction–we are enabling and perpetuating it. Moral consistency demands that we pull our financial and political support from all of these companies.

You all will receive or have received a letter from us in which we reiterate that full divestment from these 200 companies is a reasonable compromise for an endowment that is currently invested without any ethical screens. What we are asking for is the first step; full divestment has always been and will continue to remain our priority.

We close by reminding you that justice delayed is justice denied. The fossil fuel divestment movement is picking up steam worldwide and Georgetown has the opportunity to be a moral leader if it acts now. We urge you today to vote YES on FULL divestment at your next Board meeting in the early summer. We are here to show our faces to you, to ask you from the depth of our hearts to consider fully and completely this issue, and to make the right decision come summer.

Thank you very much.”

GU Fossil Free Releases Open Letter to Board of Directors

Yesterday, six members of GU Fossil Free met with five members of the Board of Directors. We would like to thank them for meeting with us, and we would like to offer a few responses that we did not get to fit in yesterday. We hope that all members of the Board will read the following letter.

The First Step is Full Divestment: An Open Letter to the Board of Directors

From the Members of GU Fossil Free

Dear Members of the Board of Directors,

On Wednesday, February 11th, we, the members of GU Fossil Free, had the opportunity to present our moral argument for divestment from the top 200 coal, oil and gas companies to five of your members. We sincerely thank William R. Berkley, Maurice B.W. Brenninkmeijer, William J. Doyle, Sr. Carol Keehan, and Rev. Joseph P. Parkes, S.J. for listening to our presentation and responding with thoughtful questions. Your attention and presence were deeply appreciated. Furthermore, we were thrilled to hear of the high likelihood of a vote on divestment at the May/June Board meeting. However, in the interests of our planet, and in solidarity with communities suffering from fossil fuel extraction and combustion, it is necessary that we discuss two points of contention that were not resolved by the end of our meeting.

The first point we would like to defend is our use of the metric of companies’ reserves of carbon holdings to identify our top 200. We were questioned during Wednesday’s meeting about the propriety of using this metric; after all, there could be some companies on this list that have a better record than others on human rights abuses, toxic leaks and spills, or following government regulations. However, this does not undermine our use of the carbon reserves metric. The companies that hold the most carbon in their reserves in their holdings have the largest incentive to extract and burn these holdings. From displacing people from their ancestral homelands, poisoning the air and water near extraction sites, and destroying the local environment surrounding their operations, the processes of fossil fuel extraction and combustion harm people from beginning to end. It is the companies most invested in the longevity of the fossil fuel industry who are also most the invested in maintaining the political hegemony of fossil fuel companies over our energy system and in our government. A transition to energy sources that serve justice to both humans and our environment is impossible as long as the dominance of the fossil fuel industry remains.

The second point is the request various Board members made of us to “make a list of priorities” regarding divestment. In their words, asking for full divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies is a large step. They asked us to articulate what our “quarter step” would be for them to take. GU Fossil Free will not provide the Board with a “list of priorities” or a “quarter step” short of our ask for full divestment, because full divestment is about integrity at its core. If our University opposes any of the practices of any of the top 200 companies, based on human rights abuses or global climate change, Georgetown University therefore equally opposes all of the companies. The list of 200 companies we have provided is already a deep compromise from what we could have asked the University to divest from on moral grounds. GU Fossil Free fully understands that the process of divesting our endowment from the top 200 companies is complex, and that this cannot be done hurriedly or haphazardly. It is for this reason that we have provided a three-year “tranching” mechanism as part of the process of divestment, a time frame for full divestment within the capability of our expert Investment Office.

To conclude, GU Fossil Free would like to again thank the members of the Board of Directors for their attention to this important matter. We look forward to the deliberations of this week and to a positive commitment to full divestment in May/June, 2015.

Sincerely,

GU Fossil Free

If you would like to access a PDF version of this letter, please click the link below.

Open Letter to the Board of Directors, 02.12.15

GUFF Responds to CISR’s Failure to Endorse Divestment

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 26 2015

 

GUFF Issues Response to the CISR’s Failure to Endorse Divestment Proposal

Today, the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR), after over a week of deliberation regarding the divestment proposal put forward by GU Fossil Free (GUFF), has published their recommendation to the University. The CISR’s recommendation, in brief, states:

The CISR does not recommend full divestment from the 200 fossil fuel companies with the largest proven reserves, while simultaneously recognizing the “real dangers of climate change,” as well as the “broad range of moral concerns” associated with investments in fossil fuel companies.

The CISR recommends divesting from “energy companies with the worst environmental impact, least commitment to alternative energy, and least responsiveness to engagement efforts.” Over a “reasonable time period,” the primary targets of CISR’s limited divestment would be coal companies.

The CISR recommends that Georgetown “proactively engage energy companies” to alter policies which have “harmful environmental impact” through shareholder engagement.

The CISR recommends that divestment efforts at Georgetown be reviewed on an annual basis to determine their impact and efficacy, with a full review after three years. The CISR recommends the creation of a “working group” to develop formal criteria to assess the behavior of the companies in question from a moral perspective.

Lastly, the CISR recognizes and welcomes the “significant and ongoing work” that Georgetown is undertaking in regards to climate change and environmental responsibility.

 

GU Fossil Free’s Response

The CISR’s decision not to support full divestment is disappointing. Partial divestment is a positive first step, and while we are encouraged by the CISR’s receptiveness to divestment as a tactic, their alterations to our proposal rely on false moral distinctions between different fossil fuel companies and greatly weaken the statement that full divestment would make. Partial divestment is an insufficient tactic, and, in light of the challenges at hand, is ideologically inconsistent with the CISR’s mandate to align Georgetown’s investments with its ethical standards:

 

GUFF’s proposal targets the top 200 oil, gas, and coal companies, as determined by the potential carbon emissions content of their proven reserves. Our choice of this particular number is not arbitrary. While companies on this list arguably do apply varying degrees of ethical discretion to some aspects of their governance, the fact remains that not one of them will elect, of their own accord, to cease extraction operations in the foreseeable future. Divestment from only coal would effectively legitimize other fossil fuel sectors whose products pose just as severe a threat to global human rights. While we would encourage divestment from any fossil fuel companies, partial divestment does not recognize the severity of the injustices perpetuated by the sector as a whole. Further, the CISR’s provision for divestment over a “reasonable time period” leaves open the door for inaction regarding an issue for which inaction has, for too long, been the norm.

The CISR’s recommendation for ‘proactive engagement’ with fossil fuel companies in which we remain invested constitutes an unrealistic approach to effecting substantive change. As we discuss in our proposal, shareholder advocacy efforts with companies whose objectionable behavior makes up the core of their business will never bring about the kind of adjustment that urgently needs to take place. Paying heed to the Jesuit-supported principle of engagement, the CISR advocates that Georgetown become more involved with the social implication of its investments. However, a working group is unnecessary to evaluate, from a moral perspective, the behavior of fossil fuel companies. It is naive to think that fossil fuel companies will change their behaviors, even if Georgetown switches from its current passive form of shareholder engagement to a more active form. These companies’ entire business model revolves around the unethical extraction and combustion of the carbon reserves they profess to own; engaging with these companies will not change this fact. Over time, shareholder engagement has proved, and will continue to prove an ineffective form of social responsibility when it comes to fossil fuel investments (see pg. 11-14 of our proposal). Continued shareholder advocacy is tantamount to inaction in the face of imminent crisis.

GUFF, alongside CISR, supports the efforts Georgetown has made recently to increase sustainability and environmental awareness on campus. However, our objections to fossil fuel companies derive from the human rights violations and direct harms on marginalized and vulnerable communities currently associated with extraction. Moreover, the problems that these measures seek to address are rooted in the fossil fuel industry’s hegemonic political and economic clout. We cannot mount an appropriately consistent and comprehensive institutional response to this climate crisis while we continue to hold a financial stake in the success of its primary authors. Such endeavors fail, by themselves, to eliminate the moral inconsistencies of Georgetown investing in fossil fuel companies while simultaneously creating policies designed to counteract climate change.

 

GU Fossil Free member Annie Wang (COL ‘16) says, “I don’t think the CISR is actually recognizing the broad range of moral concerns associated with our University’s investments in fossil fuels, nor the real dangers of climate change. These require urgent and visionary action. Other schools have stepped up to the plate with such responses, but none of the CISR’s recommendations for Georgetown meets these criteria.” GU Fossil Free first-year, Theo Montgomery (SFS ‘18), added, “Full divestment represents an incredible opportunity for Georgetown to demonstrate its moral leadership in the face of grave injustice. I hope the Board is more forward-thinking and ethically-minded than this Committee.”

At the end of their recommendation, the CISR quotes Pope Francis’s 2014 address to the UN Convention on Climate Change: “The time to find global solutions is running out. We will only be able to find adequate solutions if we act together and in agreement. Hence, there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act.” The Pope further goes on to state that “the effective struggle against global warming will only be possible with a responsible collective answer, that goes beyond particular interests and behavior and is developed free of political and economic pressures.” The responsibility to action falls particularly heavily on Georgetown as an institution founded on a strong commitment to justice and a powerful voice of moral authority. In the midst of a public discourse in which inertia reigns, we hold an exceptional obligation to step forward as a model for those who would heed the Pope’s call to action. Collective responsibility entails the willingness of individual actors to exceed the narrowest interpretation of their duties, to aim higher than the watermark set by their peers. Selective divestment (e.g. from a subset of coal companies) would feed the already-prevalent narrative that a sufficient response to climate change need not target the entire fossil fuel sector. Comprehensive divestment would make Georgetown’s contribution to this conversation a substantive one–we would be the first university with a comparable endowment to make such a commitment, and in doing so we would convey the message that a status-quo response to so urgent an issue is grossly insufficient. At Georgetown we place great stock in the ideal of being first and foremost “men and women for others,” but the chariness evident in the CISR’s recommendation would suggest that this standard is of secondary importance.

We hope that members of the Board of Directors will favor a more decisive commitment to moral leadership and opt for comprehensive divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies across all sectors.

 

In solidarity,

The GU Fossil Free Coalition

 

A PDF version of this press release can be found here: 26Jan2015 GUFF Response to CISR Failure to Endorse Proposal

An Open Letter Regarding the CISR’s Impending Decision on GUFF’s Proposal

 Georgetown’s Moral Imperative to Fully Divest from Fossil Fuels

 An Open Letter to the Georgetown Community Regarding the CISR’s Impending Decision on GU Fossil Free’s Divestment Proposal

 This past Friday, January 16th, the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility held a meeting to vote on GU Fossil Free’s proposal. The proposal, which calls for full divestment of Georgetown’s endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as defined by proven carbon reserves, was publicized in August after more than a year and a half of researching, editing, and extensive dialoguing with administrators by GUFF. As of January 22nd the CISR has not made public the minutes of this meeting, their final decision on GUFF’s proposal, or a specific date of release for the result of their vote. We write this letter to communicate our expectations regarding CISR’s decision, in light of the CISR’s role in ensuring that Georgetown fully carries out its responsibilities to social justice and the common good.

In our proposal, GUFF thoroughly defends the position that investing in the identified companies results in substantial social injury to this country’s and the world’s most vulnerable populations by virtue of the ongoing harms directly associated with the extraction of coal, oil, and gas, and by virtue of the threats to livelihoods and well-being posed by global climate change. Considering the systemic nature of our society’s dependence on fossil fuels, it is ineffective, debilitating, and complacent to claim that divestment is ‘hypocritical’ since we continue to rely on fossil fuel energy and products. Nevertheless, it is morally inconsistent for the university to live out its values by promoting social justice and the common good while simultaneously perpetuating injustice by way of its investments.

In advance of the release of the CISR’s recommendations, we would like to publicly clarify the rationale behind our proposal, and in particular the critical role of comprehensive divestment as a tactic. A number of alternatives to this proposal have been volunteered over the course of our campaign, and we want to express why we view these courses of action as inadequate. Specifically, we contend that none of the following recommendations would be independently or jointly sufficient in fulfilling our responsibilities with appropriate urgency and efficacy:

  • “Strategic” Shareholder Engagement: According to the principles set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which the CISR uses as a guideline, shareholder engagement is the appropriate response when it comes to companies involved only partially or tangentially in objectionable activities. As we note in our proposal, however: 1) the financial bottom-lines of these companies is almost exclusively—if not entirely—dependent on the continued and unabated extraction of the fossil fuel reserves to which they lay claim, directly implicating them in the damages we seek to address; and 2) the harms associated with fossil fuels are both too great and too urgent to be adequately addressed by shareholder advocacy, as evidenced by the historical ineffectiveness of this tactic with regard to practices so central to a company’s operation and the morally dubious motivations of shareholders other than Georgetown University. (See pp. 11-14 of our proposal).
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  • Partial Divestment from Worst Actors: Our proposal only identifies 200 companies from which Georgetown has a clear moral imperative to divest. These are the worst actors with regards to the kind of social injury we have presented. Consider, for example, that together the carbon reserves of these companies, were they to be fully utilized, would correspond to an increase in temperature five times beyond the limit at which warming effects would be catastrophic (see pg. 6-7 of our proposal). Any moral distinction the CISR may draw between coal and other fossil fuels, for instance, regarding the above objectionable practices would thus be a false one. Certainly, the corporate governance of different companies on this list reflects somewhat different sets of moral priorities, but the fact remains that every one of them holds vast fossil fuel reserves and not a single one will not of its own volition abate its extraction operations in the foreseeable future. Further narrowing this list would amount to consciously condoning injustice. In fact, throughout the process of developing and putting forth a proposal for divestment, it has come to light that Georgetown does not have any moral filters on its investments. This means that the Investment Office does not have any official policy that it relays to the managers of Georgetown’s investments to hold them accountable to the values we uphold as a university. With the end goal of aligning our investment practices with our moral responsibilities, then, the CISR should, at the very least, recommend what is already a highly targeted divestment proposal of the identified 200 companies—if not go further by recommending additional ethical screens.
  •  

  • Enhanced Sustainability Initiatives at Georgetown: Georgetown already has in place a range of environmental and social justice initiatives, including a commitment to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2020 from 2006 levels and a newly expanded Office of Sustainability. While more intensive efforts to minimize our negative environmental impact would certainly be welcome, as would efforts to further contribute to relevant academic research, they would do nothing to address the undeniable moral inconsistency of continuing to pour money into social and environmental  injustice—into the companies that bear such large responsibility for the carbon levels Georgetown’s policies are formulated to mitigate—thereby generating conflicting financial and ethical interests. Georgetown has a laudable record in sustainable consumption and commitment to environmental scholarship, but the urgency of this issue necessitates a comprehensive institutional response of which financial disengagement from fossil fuels is an absolutely crucial component.
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    After considering the above scenarios, and the possible arguments which might be used to justify them,it is clear that full divestment from the 200 companies identified by GUFF is the way forward for Georgetown University. This is the appropriate response if the Georgetown community is to live up to the moral responsibilities we have towards our fellow human beings, especially those amongst us who are the most vulnerable. As we argue in our proposal, divestment offers Georgetown the opportunity to live up to its status as a moral leader by working with others to influence public opinion and eventually, change the shape of the energy economy. Divestment in itself is a major and ongoing contribution to the broader dialogue concerning a just and sustainable transition to a renewable energy future.

    Kicking a can down the road only works as long as there’s still road left. Unfortunately, we have reached a point at which postponement of action is equivalent to inaction. As a Jesuit university, and as an institution of academic and moral distinction, the time has come to fully live up to the values we have professed to support for over 200 years. As students and members of the Georgetown community, we all have a stake in the moral eminence of the university.

    We close this letter by recalling Pope Francis I’s call to action in Evangelii Gaudium (2013): “Money must serve, not rule! … the rich must help, respect, and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.”

    In solidarity,

    The GU Fossil Free Coalition

     

    A PDF version of this letter can be found here: 21Jan2015 GUFF open letter RE CISR vote.

    Georgetown International Environmental Law Review Publishes Pro-Divestment Editorial

    hampden-macbeth-divestment

    The Georgetown International Environmental Law Review has published a pro-divestment editorial in its online edition, GIELR Online. Citing GU Fossil Free’s final proposal, the editorial appeals to Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition of social justice as well as the financial benefits of divestment to argue that “Georgetown University must divest from companies that are propelling global climate change.”

    The editorial follows the recent establishment of Georgetown University Law Fossil Free (GULFF), the Law Center counterpart of the divestment campaign on the main campus, GU Fossil Free.

    Georgetown University Fossil Free (GUFF), a student-run organization based in Georgetown’s main campus, recently reached out to Law Center students and faculty to increase support for University divestment from major carbon emitting companies. On October 2, 2014, leaders of the undergraduate campaign traveled to the Law Center to discuss GUFF’s divestment proposal and to explain the process for securing divestment. The meeting also included a call for Law Center students and professors to sign a petition in support of divestment.”

    According to the editorial, “if the University agrees to move forward with GUFF’s proposal, Georgetown will become the fifteenth higher education institution in the world to divest from carbon investments.”

     

    Op-Ed in The Hoya Calls on CISR to Vote YES on Divestment

    Julia Hennrikus // The Hoya
    Julia Hennrikus // The Hoya

    On Tuesday, Oct. 21, Georgetown’s campus newspaper, The Hoya, published an op-ed written by members of the pro-divestment coalition at Georgetown. The op-ed calls on the University’s Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility to vote in support of divestment this semester (date TBA), following a presentation by GU Fossil Free at their next meeting on Oct. 27.

    It was written by two members of the main campus GU Fossil Free group, Caitlin Meagher (SFS ’17) and Nina Sherburne (Staff: Human Resources), and a member of the Law Center group GU Law Fossil Free, Sean McLernon (L ’17). Check it out!

     

    GU Fossil Free Dialogues with Michael Barry, CIO after Successful Letter Delivery

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    GU Fossil Free members discussing divestment with a worker at the Investment Office before meeting with Michael Barry, CIO (Photo: Lucia He)
    On Sept. 30, four members of GU Fossil Free delivered the campaign’s final proposal and a letter to Michael Barry, Chief Investment Officer of Georgetown University. After handing over a physical copy of the proposal to a worker at the Investment Office, they sat down with Mr. Barry himself, who was in the office at the time. The members urged him to schedule a long-awaited meeting between GU Fossil Free and the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility (CISR).
    This meeting would garner the CISR’s endorsement of divestment within the next month, a crucial step for moving review forward to the Board of Directors!

    GU Fossil Free members ready to deliver their letter and proposal, outside the Investment Office. From left: Aine Boyle, Patricia Cipollitti, Elaine Colligan, and Caitlin Meagher (Photo: Lucia He)