Officials to announce divestment stance this fall

Media Credit: File Photo by Kiana Robertson | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Frank Fritz, the vice president of Fossil Free GW, discusses the Fossil Free GW initiative at a Student Association meeting earlier this year.

Updated: June 11, 2015 at 10:56 a.m.

Two University officials said in a meeting with a Fossil Free GW student leader on Friday that this fall GW will respond to the group’s bill calling on the University to remove fossil fuel investments from its endowment, the student said.

Vice President of Fossil Free GW Frank Fritz met with Ann McCorvey, the deputy executive vice president and treasurer, and Meghan Chapple, the director of the Office of Sustainability, on Friday. The process, known as divesting, has played out as a major topic of debate on college campuses over the last several years.

The meeting marks the first one-on-one meeting Fritz has had with officials since his Student Association bill asking students if GW should divest from fossil fuels passed in a March referendum.

Fritz said the response will provide a more detailed explanation of GW’s overall investment policies.

“[McCorvey and Chapple] were receptive to listen to what we have to say,” Fritz said. “I think that definitely, if nothing else, the referendum has definitely spurred action at the University.”

University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said in an email that administrators “value student input as part of this process.”

“We take this movement seriously and are developing a thoughtful approach to sustainable investment,” Hiatt said.

Georgetown and Stanford universities have announced divestment plans recently and even officials in Norway, a major oil and gas producer, have unveiled a plan to pull out their investments in the coal industry.

GW has about an about $1.57 billion financial foundation, known as its endowment. That sum is invested in a number of different industries, like real estate, though officials have never disclosed how much they invest in fossil fuel companies.

Leaders of student organizations like Fossil Free GW and Green GW have long rallied students to support divestment. Fossil Free GW’s president, Kyla Lang, has been pushing for fossil fuel divestment since last fall.

Fritz said he doesn’t plan on requesting a meeting with the University officials again until after the student organization reconvenes in the fall. He added that the group will try to engage everyone on and off campus to continue to support fossil fuel divestment.

“We’ll definitely not be sitting idly by,” he said. “We’ll be lobbying every party that we can. We’ll definitely we rallying faculty and alumni around these issues.”

In the past, experts have said that removing investments from the fossil fuel industry is likely a complicated process because the investments are “commingled,” meaning that the investments are made into a group of companies, but there’s no option to exclude firms within the portfolio from receiving funds.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
Due to incorrect information from from Frank Fritz, the Hatchet incorrectly reported that the University will make a public announcement on its divestment stance. The University will actually respond privately to Fossil Free GW, whose leaders then plan to relay the message to the public, and officials will not necessarily make a decision on divestment. We regret this error.

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