GUSA Roundup: Down on divestment, shoutouts for Voice

Apr 19 2010

Posted by: Galen Weber in News, Vox Populi, tags: Academic Working Groups, Adam Talbot, Ben Bold, Colton Malkerson, Crime, Diversity Requirement, Georgetown Divest!, GUSA, GUSA Roundup, Jackson Perry, Nick Troiano, Safety, Sexual Assault

The majority of this week’s meeting of the Georgetown University Student Association Senate was spent considering the arguments of Georgetown, Divest!, which is pushing the University to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. The Senate also spent some time debating the Academic Working Group’s diversity requirement recommendation, but did not vote on any legislation at the meeting. Here’s the wrap:

Georgetown, Divest!: Jackson Perry (COL ‘12) presented the case Georgetown, Divest! is making to the Senate in the early part of the meeting. (Disclosure: Perry is an assistant photo editor for the Voice). Perry told the senators that his group has come to the conclusion that the University has exercised little oversight over the companies it has invested in, and has no process to ensure that the University was investing only in socially responsible companies which lived up to the University’s Jesuit principles.

Perry cited an article written by the Voice’s Cole Stangler saying, “While divestment is non-negotiable to administrators, it appears that Georgetown’s Jesuit and Catholic identity is.” Perry said his group was focusing on pushing the University to institute a process that allows it to invest in a socially responsible way, and to specifically promise not to invest in eight companies selected by Georgetown, Divest! as particularly egregious in perpetuating human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. Several senators seemed to take issue with the group’s focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on eight companies in particular.

“There seems to be a political agenda here as well,” GUSA Senator Nick Troiano (COL ‘11) said.

Senator Ben Bold (COL ‘13) suggested that the group push primarily to reform the University’s system of investment so that it can avoid making any sort of immoral or socially irresponsible investments, and avoid singling out any particular companies.

“I see the need for this to become comprehensive,” said Bold.

Perry said that the group had decided to focus on only eight companies to keep their demands for the University reasonable and realistic. He said the group would like to see the University avoid investments in any companies that committed human rights violations or violated international law, but that the group saw the crimes in Israel and Palestine as meriting special attention for their severity and for the role the United States has played in the conflict.

GUSA did not pass a resolution on the issue, but several senators, including Speaker Adam Talbot (COL ‘11), voiced support for pushing the University to institute a process for socially responsible investment.

Diversity Requirement and Student Safety: For the second week in a row, the contentious issue of a diversity requirement surfaced during the good of the order period of GUSA’s meeting. Senators Colton Malkerson (COL ‘13) and Troiano reaffirmed their opposition to the requirement, which Malkerson said would “not necessarily deliver the effect that it hopes to.”

For his part, Troiano took issue with the Voice Editorial Board’s characterization of his statement that “diversity can be fostered, it can’t be mandated” as disingenuous and misleading, saying he saw no difference between a diversity requirement and a mandate. Troiano also questioned the motives of the Academic Working Group.

“Is it just to expose poeple to diversity and ideas?” Troiano asked in a tone suggesting the Academic Working Group had a more perfidious agenda than increasing the level of diversity in Georgetown’s academics.

“You’re making it sound kind of insiduous,” Talbot said, adding that many of Georgetown’s competitor schools have diversity requirements as part of their curriculum.

At one point, another senator asked what GUSA was doing debating the diversity requirement when no one had come to ask them for a resolution or statement in favor or against the requirement.

Malkerson countered that debating such issues was essentially GUSA’s responsibility, given that few other students knew much about the working group’s recommendations.

“No one’s paying attention …. It’s partly our responsibility to discuss this.”

The recent pair of sexual assaults on and around Georgetown’s campus came up later.

Troiano called the crimes “disturbing.” Senators debated various measures in response, and Troiano asked Talbot if he could “appoint a czar for this.” Talbot assured the Senate that he would look into ways to work with administrators to better improve security.

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