Faculty Letter

April 15th, 2015

GU Fossil Free is thrilled to circulate an open letter for any and all University faculty to sign calling on Georgetown to divest from the 200 fossil fuel companies as detailed in GU Fossil Free’s proposal. The letter was spearheaded by Nathan Hensley, Assistant Professor in the Department of English. After gaining more than 100 signatures from Georgetown professors in favor of divestment, it is time to voice educators’ demand for divestment from fossil fuels. The letter follows below and is also available in PDF format here: Divestment Faculty Letter circulated April 15, 2015. To sign on, please email us at gufossilfree@gmail.com, and make sure you have also signed our faculty petition. Please feel free to circulate this letter to other Georgetown faculty who might have an interest in signing.

April 15, 2015

An Open Letter from Georgetown Faculty Calling for Full Divestment of its Endowment from Fossil Fuels

Georgetown University profits from the sale of fossil fuels. The burning of such fuels has transferred millions of years of sedimented carbon from the ground to the air and caused irreversible damage to our biosphere, weather systems, and infrastructure. The continuation of this transfer in the form of fossil fuel consumption will ensure a catastrophic alteration to the planet’s climate. Burning just 565 more gigatons of carbon will threaten human civilization as we know it; the business model of the fossil fuel industry projects burning five times that much. As the Guardian has explained, “[t]here are trillions of dollars worth of fossil fuels currently underground which, for our safety, simply cannot be extracted and burned. All else is up for debate: that much is not.” Since the facts about climate change are not debatable we do not rehearse them here.

What the facts add up to is that the continued extraction and burning of carbon-based fuel is incompatible with any vision of a just human future. Because the most calamitous effects of an altered climate have fallen, and will continue to fall, on those in the global community who possess the least –on the most precarious, the most vulnerable, and the most marginalized members of our human family– climate change is fundamentally a problem of social justice. Universities in general are built on the idea that human life can flourish not just in the present but in the future. As a Jesuit University, Georgetown is particularly committed to the continuation of the human tradition. For an institution like ours to profit from an industry whose business model would eradicate that tradition is a contradiction that cannot be explained away.

Georgetown must lead on this vital issue of social justice by divesting its endowment from all fossil fuels. Institutions like Stanford, The New School, Syracuse, and many others have already made such a commitment; the faculties of Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Yale, the University of California, among others, have written letters calling for divestment; more than 40 municipalities and numerous religious organizations have already divested; these include the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Council of Churches, and the Sovereign Fund of Norway. It is a cause that transcends secular and ecumenical divisions and unites communities from across the globe. The United Nations has already declared its support for fossil fuel divestment, and Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical on the environment will underscore for Catholics worldwide the urgency of these concerns now. The University of Dayton was the first Catholic university to divest, but there is still a chance to act with courage on this issue.

The Jesuit idea of a life lived for others is central to Georgetown’s mission. Any just understanding of that mission must take account the lives threatened by climate change in the present, but also those generations of future human beings for whose care we now stand responsible. Georgetown’s investment in fossil fuels effectively trades those future human lives for material benefit now. As a Jesuit institution also committed to research, our university is committed to articulating the relationship between knowledge and justice; thus it is uniquely poised to stand against this unethical exchange and lead on the most imperative moral issue of our time. Its failure to do so would contradict its very identity. As faculty members, we are charged to spur the pursuit of knowledge and transmit Georgetown’s values to the young people who will help shape the future direction of human life on this planet. To remain complicit in the support of industries opposed to this very idea would be to abdicate our responsibility as educators.

For these reasons and others, we stand united in calling on Georgetown to divest all of its resources from the two hundred oil, gas, and coal companies listed in the proposal submitted by GU Fossil Free. Anything short of full divestment would be a half-measure that trades moral responsibility for financial expediency. The fact that divestment has been shown to improve rather than inhibit investment performance can only make more palatable our moral imperative to act now.[1]

Some will argue that divestment of Georgetown’s endowment is a symbolic gesture that will not derail substantially a climate catastrophe that is already far advanced. It is true that aspects of climate change are now irreversible; its effects, however, can still be limited. In his address to Georgetown on March 25, 2015, the author and activist Bill McKibben explained that public statements of solidarity with climate justice can aggregate, coalesce, and take on the force of moral authority. As the civil rights movement and the stand against Apartheid have shown, such gestures have the power to change common sense and make possible a better world.

We affirm here that such a world must be sustainable, just, and renewable, and that Georgetown must lead in shaping it. We therefore call on Georgetown to keep faith with its past leadership on issues of social justice and immediately divest its endowment from all fossil fuels.

Respectfully submitted,

  1. Randall Amster, Professor and Director of the Program for Justice and Peace
  2. Laura Anderko, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies & Robert and Kathleen Scanlon Endowed Chair in Values Based Health Care
  3. Peter Armbruster, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology
  4. Deborah Lesko Baker, Professor in the Department of French
  5. Edward M. Barrows, Professor in the Department of Biology and Director of the Center for the Environment
  6. Julia Watts Belser, Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Theology
  7. Laura Benedetti, Professor and Chair of the Department of Italian
  8. William Blattner, Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  9. Rebecca Boylan, Lecturer in Department of English
  10. Melissa Bradley, Professor of Practice in the McDonough School of Business
  11. Denise Brennan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology
  12. David Bronstein, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy
  13. Katherine Chandler, Assistant Professor in the Culture and Politics Program
  14. Francisca Cho, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology
  15. Gay Gibson Cima, Professor in the Department of English
  16. Ashley L. Cohen, Assistant Professor in the Department of English
  17. Maureen Corrigan, Critic-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of English
  18. Kerry Danner-McDonald, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Theology
  19. Maria-Elvira Daza, Financial Administrator in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  20. Dagomar Degroot, Assistant Professor in the Department of History
  21. Sylvie Durmelat, Associate Professor in the Department of French
  22. Christine Evans, Assistant Professor of Theater and Performance Studies
  23. Jennifer Natalya Fink, Associate Professor in the Department of English
  24. Carolyn Forche, Professor in the Department of English and Director of Lannan Center
  25. Jennifer Fox, Laboratory Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology
  26. Pamela Fox, Professor in the Department of English
  27. Emily Francomano, Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  28. William J. Gallagher, Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine
  29. David Gewanter, Professor in the Department of English
  30. Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Performing Arts
  31. Anna von der Goltz, Associate Professor in the Department of History
  32. Yvonne Haddad, Professor of History in Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding
  33. John F. Haught, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Theology (retired)
  34. Lisa Heinzerling, Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center
  35. Gretchen E. Henderson, Lecturer in the Department of English
  36. Nathan K. Hensley, Assistant Professor in the Department of English (main author)
  37. Elena Herburger, Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  38. Michael A. Hickey, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Biology
  39. John C. Hirsh, Professor in the Department of English
  40. Brian Hochman, Assistant Professor in the Department of English
  41. Sandra Horvath-Peterson, Associate Professor of History
  42. Marc Howard, Professor in the Department of Government
  43. Bryce Huebner, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  44. Daniel Isaac, Program Manager in the Department of Biology
  45. Maurice Jackson, Associate Professor of History and African-American Studies and Affiliated Professor of Performing Arts at Georgetown University
  46. Anna D. Johnson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology
  47. Michael Kazin, Professor in the Department of History
  48. Thomas Kerch, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Government
  49. Shiloh Krupar, Associate Professor in the Culture and Politics Program
  50. Rebecca Kukla, Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Senior Research Scholar in the Kennedy Institute of Ethics
  51. Julia A. Lamm, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology
  52. Mark Lance, Professor in the the Department of Philosophy and the Department of Justice and Peace
  53. Joanna Lewis, Associate Professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and International Affairs
  54. Judith Lichtenberg, Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  55. David W. Lightfoot, Professor in the of Linguistics
  56. Margaret Little, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics
  57. Amy Leonard, Associate Professor in the Department of History
  58. Adam Lifshey, Associate Professor in the Spanish and Portuguese
  59. Michael Loadenthal, Adjunct Professor in the Program of Justice & Peace
  60. Dana Luciano, Associate Professor in the Department of English
  61. Daniel A. Madigan SJ, Jeanette W. and Otto J Ruesch Family Associate Professor in the Department of Theology
  62. Rodrigo Maillard, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry
  63. Edward Maloney, Executive Director of the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship and Associate Professor in the Department of English
  64. Gerard Mannion, Amaturo Professor in Catholic Studies in the Department of Theology
  65. Wesley N. Mathews Jr., Associate Professor in the Department of Physics
  66. James Mattingly, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  67. Eli McCarthy, Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Justice and Peace
  68. Joseph A. McCartin, Professor in the Department of History
  69. Kathleen McNamara, Associate Professor in the Department of Government and Director of the Mortara Center for International Studies
  70. Sarah McNamer, Associate Professor of English and Medieval Studies in the Department of English
  71. John R McNeill, University Professor in the Department of History
  72. Fathali Moghaddam, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology
  73. Tom Mulherin, Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Philosophy
  74. Joe Napolitano, Assistant Dean of the College, Department of English
  75. James Olsen, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  76. Patrick R. O’Malley, Associate Professor in the Department of English
  77. Motoko Omori, Adjunct Professor of Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
  78. Sylvia W. Onder, Teaching Professor in the Division of Eastern Mediterranean Languages and in the Department of Anthropology
  79. Anne O’Neil-Henry, Assistant Professor in the Department of French
  80. Ricardo Ortiz, Associate Professor of US Latino Literature and Culture in the Department of English
  81. Mike Osborne, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History
  82. Cóilín Parsons, Assistant Professor in the Department of English
  83. Manus Patten, Assistant Professor of the Practice in the Department of Biology
  84. Matthew Pavesich, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of English
  85. Terry Pinkard, University Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  86. Madison Powers, Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  87. Kristin Primus, Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  88. Rama Ramamurthy, Teaching Professor in the McDonough School of Business
  89. Joanne Rappaport, Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Anthropology
  90. Paul D. Roepe, Professor of Chemistry and Co-Director of the Center for Infectious Disease
  91. Anne Rosenwald, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology
  92. Nicole Rizzuto, Assistant Professor in the Department of English
  93. Mubbashir Rizvi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology
  94. Frederick Ruf, Associate Professor in the Department of Theology
  95. Rebecca M. Ryan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology
  96. Steven R. Sabat, Professor in the Department of Psychology
  97. Jordan Sand, Professor in the Department of History
  98. Henry Schwarz, Professor in the Department of English
  99. George E. Shambaugh, Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service and the Department of Government
  100. Micah Sherr, Provost Distinguished Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science
  101. Daniel Shore, Associate Professor in the Department of English
  102. Mark Sicoli, Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics
  103. Andrew Sobanet, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of French
  104. Rosemary Sokas, Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Science
  105. Ori Soltes, Professorial Lecturer in the Department of Theology
  106. Tomoko Steen, Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology
  107. Robynn Stilwell, Associate Professor of Music in the Department of Performing Arts
  108. Penn Szittya, former Chair, Department of English;  Chair, Advisory Board for the Lannan Center of Poetics and Social Practice; member, Board of Directors of the Lannan Foundation
  109. Pierre Taminiaux, Professor in the Department of French
  110. YuYe Jay Tong, Professor and Chair in the Department of Chemistry
  111. Rochelle E. Tractenberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology
  112. Mahendran Velauthapillai, Professor and McBride Family Endowed Chair in the Department of Computer Science
  113. Patrícia Vieira, Associate Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, the Comparative Literature Program and the Film and Media Studies Program
  114. Michelle Wang, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History
  115. Martha Weiss, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology
  116. Caroline Wellbery, Professor in the Department of Family Medicine
  117. Vince WinklerPrins, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine
  118. Gina Wimp, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology
  119. Katherine Withy, Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy
  120. Duncan Wu, Professor in the Department of English

Total signatures as of 02/23/16

 

—————–

Teaching Associate Signatures

  • Colin Hickey, Teaching Associate in the Department of Philosophy
  • Michael Randall Barnes, Teaching Associate in the Department of Philosophy
  • Laura Guidry-Grimes, Teaching Associate with the Department of Philosophy
  • Walter Glazer, Teaching Associate in the Department of Philosophy
  • McKay Holland, Teaching Associate in the Department of Philosophy

 

[1] “Fossil Fuel-Free Funds Outperformed Conventional Ones, Analysis Shows”

Guardian April 10, 2015. Web.

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6 comments

  1. carolyn forche · · Reply

    I would like to add my name.

  2. I would like to add my name.

  3. […] follows a similar move by 95 faculty members at Georgetown University in Washington DC who recently backed the divestment campaign on campus, in advance of an expected vote on the issue in […]

  4. […] follows a similar move by 95 faculty members at Georgetown University in Washington DC who recently backed the divestment campaign on campus, in advance of an expected vote on the issue in […]

  5. Ironic that none of these professors are of an engineering background. When rid of fossil fuels, how will you generate power and enjoy the benefits of electricity? Will it be through investment of nuclear power? Probably not, many are of the opinion that that is evil as well. Will it be through so called “green energy”? Again, not viable. Solar and wind power have yet to make an even close to the technology of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Alas, we turn to hydro power. Unfortunately, only so many dams can be built. Yet, many even oppose this form of energy as it doesn’t allow fish to swim upstream. Talks of turning to green energy are laughable and show the sheer lunacy of ignorant liberal professors.

    1. Hi G, please remember that Georgetown has no engineering school, so it would be pretty much impossible for there to have been engineering professors. Please do your research before posting criticisms that do not apply at all to Georgetown.

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