Disclose, Debate, Divest
Published: Friday, December 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 02:12
As a fiscal goal for Georgetown, divestment has been labeled as many things, from morally imperative to practically impossible. Last week, GU Fossil Free proved that divestment is not a pipe dream but rather a university-wide conversation worth having.
By a margin of 17 to six, the Georgetown University Student Association senate passed a resolution backing GU Fossil Free on Nov. 24. The vote came less than a month after GU Fossil Free’s leadership decided to pursue a student association resolution instead of a student-wide referendum in fear of ambiguous results.
With a GUSA resolution on the table, it would be a mistake for the university to believe that the only response is to either divest or to refuse to do so. Rather, if the administration takes its commitment to dialogue seriously, it should take this resolution as a sign that even if the campus community does not wholeheartedly support divestment, now is the time to talk about it. Public forums on the issue could be used to begin a more inclusive and informed dialogue between students, faculty and administrators outside of GU Fossil Free. Such forums would be another encouraging sign that the university values student input on more salient campus issues than architectural preferences and dining options.
The GUSA vote helped to legitimize GU Fossil Free and prove that students are eager to seriously consider the pros and cons of divestment. With minimal attention from the university administration, however, student discussion on divestment remains uninformed and possibly unproductive. The university’s investments are not currently public, and clarifying exactly what GU Fossil Free is up against would be an important step. We do not know how much of the university’s finances are tied to fossil fuels, whether or not divestment would have a deleterious effect on scholarship funding or if the university has investments in any other kinds of unsavory corporations. To proceed effectively, these questions must be addressed.
Now that GUSA has stamped GU Fossil Free with a badge of approval, the divestment conversation is at a watershed moment. The next move belongs to university administrators. We hope they consider the benefits of making divestment a more public debate.