Divestment Coalition Receives Negative Response from GU

By Elizabeth Rowe | Apr 30 2010

The administration dealt a blow to Georgetown, Divest!, a coalition of students on campus that wants the university to divest from companies that may profit from human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine, on Tuesday.

Assistant Vice President for Business Policy and Planning LaMarr Billups wrote a letter to Georgetown, Divest! stating that the administration would not modify its investment practices.

Referencing the coalition’s April 9 meeting with a senior team of administrators, Billups wrote, “At that meeting you asked if Georgetown University would divest from managed funds that own stocks in certain companies that do business with Israel. The answer to that question is no.”

The question of divestment is a difficult one, since the university does not invest directly in companies, but rather in managed funds. The Investment Office does not make its investments public.

“Georgetown’s investment practices do not include the selection of individual securities,” Director of Media Relations Andy Pino said. “As a result, the question of divestment does not apply.”

Still, Georgetown, Divest! member and Vice President of Students for Justice in Palestine Jackson Perry (COL ’12) said he knows Georgetown, Divest!’s struggles are not for nothing.

“First of all, [Chief Investment Officer Larry Kochard] told us that he believed we were invested in Caterpillar,” Perry said. Caterpillar is one of the companies that Georgetown, Divest! has asked the university to divest from.

Perry added, “Condoms and cohabitation are not permitted on campus because they are not in keeping with the Jesuit values of the institution, yet the administration thinks our Jesuit values shouldn’t play a role in investment decisions at all? This is hypocrisy.”

Other schools around the country are also pushing university administrations to divest.

According to a press release from the chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine at University of California, Berkeley, students have been working to pass a bill through the UC Berkeley Student Senate on divestment since March.

On Wednesday, the Georgetown University Student Association Senate met to vote on a bill that would urge the university to divest from two companies that profit from the manufacture of weapons for the Israeli Army. The student senate failed to override the veto on the bill, falling short by just one vote.

Other American universities that have called for divestment include the University of Michigan Dearborn, Hampshire College and the University of Wisconsin.

“Changing the status quo is one of the hardest things for anyone to do,” Perry said. “However, we are optimistic that the right amount of pressure from various directions, including especially the constant reminder of the moral values of our university itself, will break through the bureaucratic inertia and amoral mindset that is currently dominating the way the university has responded.”

I'm a teacher, writer, and activist based in Bangalore. I am dedicated to various issues including #BDS and Palestine, living Zero Waste, and reversing the effects of climate change.

Posted in Divestment, Student Organizing, U.S. Academica
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