Georgetown opens door to divesting from Israel, fossil fuels

Georgetown University recently passed a policy in favor of divesting from companies involved in “abortion services,” though the new provision could have a far greater impact on the school’s investments.

According to a university press release, the Washington, D.C. school’s Board of Directors voted to uphold a “Socially Responsible Investing” (SRI) policy in order to ensure that its endowment would not “be used as a tool to promote a political agenda.”

[RELATED: NYU rejects fossil fuel divestment as meaningless political statement]

“This SRI Policy is an important step forward for Georgetown,” Paul Tagliabue, the board’s vice chair and leader of its working group on socially responsible investments, remarked in the press release. “Recognizing that the university’s endowment is not to be used for advocating political interests, we are committed to both meeting our fiduciary responsibilities and generating resources to advance the university’s academic mission in a manner consistent with our identity as a Catholic and Jesuit institution.”

Specifically, the new policy will require the university to “avoid investments in companies that are substantially involved in the provision of abortion services,” but its broad wording could also result in divestment from companies involved in the extraction of fossil fuels, or even those that do business with Israel.

[RELATED: Barnard College to divest from ‘climate deniers’]

In fact, the press release makes clear that “the working group met with representatives of the student-run group GU Fossil Free,” an organization that supports full divestment from oil and gas companies, when creating its new policy.

Moreover, in the very same section of the SRI policy that discusses divestment from abortion service providers, the school discusses criteria for further divestments that align closely with the claims advanced by advocates of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

[RELATED: REPORT: BDS among ‘greatest threats to academic freedom’ today]

Under the section titled “Do No Harm,” the university is instructed to avoid investments in companies violating “human dignity,” including ones “that are directly and significantly involved in the production of weapons that are intended to be used for indiscriminate destruction and companies that are engaged in activities having an extremely deleterious effect on the environment.”

Larry Huang, incoming chairman of the Georgetown College Democrats, told Campus Reform that his organization supports the university’s “leadership in environmentally-friendly policies,” arguing that “divesting from fossil fuels is scientifically the best decision for the environment, which is why it's a policy that can be separate from politics,” though he expressed disappointment with other aspects of the policy.

[RELATED: Alumni pledge to hold donations hostage to divestment]

“We are deeply disappointed that they seem to equate abortion with environmental harm and weapons manufacturing,” he commented.

Campus Reform reached out to the university for comment on the matter, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @kara_kirsten

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article mistakenly attributed support for divestment from Israel to GU Fossil Free, which advocates for divestment from oil and gas companies. Divestment from companies that do business with Israel is promoted by a different student group, GU F.R.E.E.