Fossil Free Alum Effort Lags

FILE PHOTO: ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA GU Fossil Free, pictured here at a protest on January 16, circulated a letter written by an alumnus calling for the university to divest.

GU Fossil Free, pictured here at a protest on January 16, circulated a letter written by an alumnus calling for the university to divest.

GU Fossil Free published and circulated an open letter written by an anonymous alumnus calling for the university to divest its endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, amassing one signature as of press time.

The group published the letter on its website Oct. 9. It is the first open letter to be published by GUFF since the board of directors voted to end direct investments in coal companies in early June, a decision that GUFF criticized for being insufficient.

The letter reiterated GUFF’s goal for the university to fully divest from the top 200 oil, coal and gas companies based on carbon reserves.

“We, the alumni of Georgetown University, respectfully ask the board of directors to divest the university’s endowment from the top 200 fossil fuel companies based on carbon reserves,” the letter read.

The letter also cited scientific research published on National Geographic and the Environmental Protection Agency website on the effects of fossil fuel burning on the environment.

“These abrupt changes [in average global temperature] have already resulted in more severe and frequent heat waves, storms, droughts, and floods,” the letter read.

The letter concluded by calling the university to implement more sustainable measures in its wider plans, beginning with divestment.

“By divesting, we stand for those who cannot stand for themselves and protect an Earth that is currently being silenced,” the letter read. “For this reason, Georgetown can and must take the lead in moving us away from fossil fuel dependence, and that begins with divesting and helping to shift the dialogue toward true sustainability.”

In April, GUFF released a letter signed by faculty members that supported divestment, and it accrued 113 signatures. The letter, which was drafted by professor Nathan Hensley, was released toward the end of an academic year marked by demonstrations by GUFF and negotiations between the group and the university.

According to GUFF member Annie Wang (COL ’16), the group decided to release the alumni open letter based on the effectiveness of the faculty letter.

“I think [we chose this tactic] because we saw how successful it was with the faculty,” Wang said. “We thought it would be a good way to rally alumni.”

GUFF member Grady Willard (SFS ’18) said the group wanted the letter to draw broader support for divestment in order to pressure the university.

“If we can get a broad coalition of constituencies to support divestment, we believe that the university will be more likely to follow through with full divestment from oil and gas,” Willard wrote in an email to The Hoya.

According to Wang, the group is circulating the letter to alumni through “mostly email and social media,” with  “some word of mouth.”

Willard also said that the group is collaborating with former GUFF members to facilitate the circulation among alumni.

Although GUFF does not have an estimate for the number of signatures that they hope to collect, Wang said the organization is hoping to see the same success that they found with the faculty letter.

“We’re trying to get a hundred, maybe a couple hundred,” Wang said.

Willard also said that the alumni letter would eventually be delivered to the university administration.

Elaine Colligan (SFS ’15) praised the letter for supporting its argument with scientific facts. She has yet to sign the letter.

“I think it lays out the science behind climate change well,” Colligan said.

Colligan also said that she anticipates the letter to gain further traction as it circulates among alumni.

“I expect tons and tons of alumni to put a lot of pressure on Georgetown to divest,” Colligan said.

Aside from the letter, Wang said that one of GUFF’s main goals for the semester is to keep up with the board of directors, in addition to increasing student outreach efforts.

“We’re trying to get more contact with the board of directors,” Wang said. “I think what we want to see is getting a broad community of support.”

Willard also said that GUFF will continue to promote its agenda to the university community this semester.

“GUFF will continue to advocate for full divestment from oil and gas, as well as administrative transparency,” Willard wrote.

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