Keeping Georgetown University’s investment portfolio private is a method of maintaining industry competitiveness, and is therefore more profitable. Why call for transparency if it could jeopardize the financial viability of many university programs, scholarships, etc.?
- Without investment transparency, there is no way for the Georgetown community to evaluate how the University’s $1.5 billion endowment is invested. For this campaign, we are particularly concerned that our investments may be supporting corporations that derive profits from egregious state violence and oppression.
- By enshrining investment transparency, the University administration will help foster a culture of ethical accountability. The wider Georgetown community will be able to hold the administration accountable for its investment decisions according to their ethical validity as opposed to pure profitability. Ethical investing is in accordance with the Jesuit values that the University professes, and implementing transparency is a powerful statement of Georgetown’s commitment to this fundamental principle. How can we limit our commitment to faith and justice by the forces of supply and demand, assessing investments based purely on profitability?
Divestment is more alienating and divisive than it is productive. Wouldn’t it be better if Georgetown remained a stakeholder in these complicit companies and instead sought to engage with them regarding their unethical practices?
- Divestment is a tried and tested form of effective political expression, one that has a rich legacy not only on the global stage, but also within our very own Georgetown community. In 1986, Georgetown students successfully campaigned for divestment from Apartheid South Africa, thereby setting an important historical precedent on our campus. In 2015, the GU Fossil Free Campaign managed to secure divestment from companies involved in the coal industry.
- The existence and sustainment of violent systems and institutions necessitates, first and foremost, monetary resources. By investing in corporations that partake in these systems, Georgetown profits off of their violent activities and implicitly condones their ethical validity. By withdrawing our investments from these corporations’ activities, we weaken their capacity to continue perpetuating state violence all over the world.
- Divesting from these corporations makes a statement on behalf of the entire Georgetown community that state violence is antithetical to our values. In doing so, we collectively stand on the side of the marginalized and vulnerable, thereby upholding our Jesuit commitments to faith and justice, cura personalis, and being men and women for others.
What do you mean by the term ‘state violence’ and how does it pertain to the Georgetown community’s Jesuit values?
- State violence refers to any violence inflicted on communities through state institutions, bureaucracies, militaries, and state discourses is often heavily entrenched. A state that sustains violence on a particular population actively inflicts structural, bodily, and psychological harm and further marginalizes particularly vulnerable communities.
- Georgetown’s potential investment in state violence flies in the face of our Jesuit values of being men and women for others, espousing cura personalis, and working for faith and justice:
- Georgetown defines being men and women for others as being “engaged in the struggle for justice to protect the needs of the most vulnerable”. In 1973, Fr. Pedro Arrupe called on all Jesuit institutions to uphold this principle. GU F.R.E.E. simply asks the Georgetown community to recognize and respond to Fr. Arrupe’s invitation by divesting from corporations whose activities specifically and violently target vulnerable communities.
- Cura personalis entails “individualized attention to the needs of the other [and] distinct respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns.” It is therefore antithetical to this principle for the University to remain invested in any corporation whose activities specifically disrespect marginalized communities’ unique circumstances and concerns, thereby dehumanizing, displacing, and seeking to effectively destroy them in the process.
- Under the banner of faith and justice, Georgetown proclaims to uphold an “institutional commitment to promote justice in the world.” Laudable as this commitment is, how can we assess the extent to which our investments promote justice without information about the University’s investments? How can we authentically claim to pursue the promotion of global justice all the while remaining silent, and therefore complicit, regarding corporate collaboration with state violence?
Why should Georgetown divest from the U.S. private prisons industry?
- In the United States, some of the most egregious forms of state violence are mass incarceration, police militarization, and the structural exclusion and oppression of poor people and people of color.
- Laws that specifically target low-income minorities fill the American prison system beyond capacity and thus allow private institutions to profit off of the incarceration of these marginalized communities. Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population and occupy 40% of its prison beds. The private prisons industry is therefore a far-reaching manifestation of state violence as it specifically targets marginalized communities and perpetuates a cycle of their criminalization, incarceration, and disenfranchisement.
- In the summer of 2016, the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation, assembled by President DeGioia, issued a report within which the members of this body presented a number of “recommendations on how best to acknowledge and recognize Georgetown’s historical relationship with the institution of slavery.” Key amongst these recommendations was that the Board of directors “examine Georgetown’s financial involvement in the private prison industry” as a means of addressing the persisting legacies of slaveholding widespread throughout the United States. By divesting from the U.S. private prisons industry, the Board of Directors will signal to the wider Georgetown community its commitment to upholding the recommendations issued by this incredibly important Working Group – the establishment, activities, and results of which have been emphatically endorsed by President DeGioia on multiple occasions.
- A number of key civil and human rights’ organizations have advocated for the divestment from the private prisons industry in the United States. The Black Lives Matter platform, which explicitly indicates prison divestment as pivotal to the pursuit of national racial justice; and the National Prison Divestment Campaign founded in 2011 are but two of the most prominent examples of domestic movements geared towards prison divestment. Moreover, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, as well as Amnesty International, have both also decried the racially discriminatory and destructive consequences of the U.S. private prisons industry and recommended divestment as a way to reform the U.S. criminal justice system.
Why should Georgetown divest from companies that facilitate the Israeli occupation in Palestine?
- Despite repeated condemnations from the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, and the International Court of Justice, the State of Israel continues to inflict widespread human rights abuses against the Palestinian population, as well as violate international law with impunity.
- The United States finances the State of Israel with unprecedented financial aid, military aid and diplomatic aid. No other state holds near equivalent standing for US foreign relations. Most recently, the Obama administration promised $38 billion of military and financial aid over the coming decade to the Israeli state. The US government is directly implicated in the military might and expansion of the State of Israel more than any other country. Because of the exceptional role that the US plays in the financing the Israeli state and especially its military, the US and its citizenry have a unique role to play in holding Israel accountable.
- In 2005, members of Palestinian civil society launched a campaign called Boycott, Divestment, Sanction (BDS). This campaign seeks to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory non-violently through withdrawing monetary support from institutions that facilitate, sustain, or endorse the occupation. Part and parcel of the BDS campaign is the call issued by members of Palestinian civil society to their international allies to join them in this non-violent expression of resistance and solidarity. Divesting from corporations that facilitate the Israeli occupation of Palestine would serve as the Georgetown community’s response to this call.
- Taking a position on the university’s complicity in the human rights abuses and international crimes of Israel sets a clear moral position that can and should be expanded to confront other potential unethical investments. Just as fellow peer institutions’ policies and reforms often inform and inspire our own, by setting the moral standard of divesting from corporations complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, Georgetown can lead by example as a proud supporter and practitioner of ethical investment policies in the global academic community.
- Georgetown would be joining a growing list of universities and academic institutions, both within and beyond the United States, that have either already divested from companies that facilitate the Israeli occupation, or whose student governments have successfully passed resolutions calling for the implementation of this policy. These include but are not limited to: Stanford University, several UCs, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Portland State University, the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), the University of Manchester, amongst many others.
- Divesting from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory can also help support local Palestinian businesses that often struggle to survive in a discriminatory and economically oppressive market.
These two issues appear to be unrelated. What does the U.S. private prisons industry have to do with the Israeli occupation in Palestine? Wouldn’t it make more sense to address each issue separately?
- Our decision to target the private prison industry and Israel’s occupation of Palestine is deliberate and should not be overlooked. The movements for Black and Palestinian liberation have long enjoyed a history of solidarity, dating as far back as 1967. We are inspired first and foremost by the two communities’ resistance and resilience to systems of racial domination. We note their unapologetic choice to stand in solidarity, affirmed by their mantra of “When I see them, I see us.”
- We are particularly inspired by black activists’ endorsement of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement in the Movement for Black Lives’ platform, even amidst intense backlash.
- Though it is important to recognize that these are not homologous experiences, there is a common legacy of state violence, economic disenfranchisement, suppression of political and civil liberties, social denigration and systematic marginalization that rely on the ascription of Black and Palestinian people as subhuman and disposable.
- We are of the firm conviction that targeting state violence as it exists in both the United States or Occupied Palestine is best accomplished through a spirit of solidarity. It is with this spirit of solidarity that we maintain a critical awareness of the contextual nuances defining each manifestation of state violence and the experiences and histories of Black communities and Palestinians.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine is a particularly controversial and divisive issue, and the Israeli State is obviously not the only human rights abuser in the world. By focusing exclusively on Israel as a perpetrator of state violence, are you expressing, encouraging, or condoning anti-semitism?
- GU F.R.E.E. is a movement founded on ideals of equality, justice, and peace for all – ideals that echo the Georgetown community’s Jesuit values. Any kind of discrimination or prejudice has no place within our discourse, our community organizing, or our demands.
- GU F.R.E.E.’s vision emerges out of a global environment increasingly defined by widespread and multifaceted manifestations of state violence that often target society’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities. Although our demands directly target corporations involved in two of the most widely-documented and egregious examples of this violence, the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the U.S. private prisons industry; we look forward to ultimately severing all of GU’s ties with any corporations involved in the perpetuation of state violence all over the world.
- We are not singling out Israel because it is a Jewish state. Our campaign disavows the Israeli occupation in Palestine and violence towards Palestinians because we understand these to be pressing human rights violations that are either ignored or actively subsidized by the U.S. government, as well as several other powerful nations, corporations, and global institutions. The amount of aid that the Israeli State receives from the U.S. is unparalleled, as is the amount of violence and injustice inflicted upon Palestinians that it is then used to sustain.
- There is a history of BDS critics using allegations of anti-semitism as a means to stifle advocates’ freedom of speech and severely curb their right to criticize the Israeli State’s widespread human rights abuses against the Palestinian population. To claim that a critique of the Israeli State’s human rights abuses is an expression of anti-semitism is to imply that these human rights abuses are somehow intrinsic to the Jewish faith, which is an implication the GU F.R.E.E. campaign strongly rejects. There is nothing intrinsically Jewish about the forced displacement of Palestinians, their collective punishment, and the deprivation of their communities from access to basic resources like water and electricity. With pioneering organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace endorsing the GU F.R.E.E. campaign, we look forward to standing in solidarity alongside the Jewish community to resist any all forms of prejudice and discrimination through educating and engaging the wider Georgetown community, all the while deconstructing the myth that criticism of Israel equates anti-semitism.
- Campaigning for equality for Black and other racial minorities in 1950s and 60s America was controversial. Demanding that women be afforded the basic right to vote was once controversial. Just because an issue is controversial doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be addressed. We owe it to those whose human rights are infringed upon a daily basis, and we owe it to the institution that instilled within us Jesuit values of being men and women for others, to forgo our fear of controversy for the far more urgent struggle for justice.