Updated: Oct. 20, 2018 at 3:37 p.m.
About 30 students interrupted a Board of Trustees meeting Friday morning to urge administrators to divest from the University’s holdings in the fossil fuel industry.
Two members of Fossil Free GW stood up in the middle of University President Thomas LeBlanc’s report at a Board of Trustees meeting Friday and called on officials to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The protest was at least the third time the group has rallied in favor of divestment at a Board meeting.
“Now is the time for you all to fulfill your moral obligation and divest,” junior Eden Vitoff, an organizer for Fossil Free GW, said. “If GW does not take leadership in this historic moment and divest from the fossil fuel industry, it will be because you all failed to rise to the occasion and listen to the youth who will suffer the most from climate change.”
The protesters spoke uninterrupted for about two minutes before walking out of the Board meeting and joining roughly 30 students outside, who chanted, “What do we want? Divestment. When do we want it? Now.”
GW Police Department officers escorted the protesters out of the Marvin Center, who then gathered in Kogan Plaza. The University can “define the time, place and manner” of on-campus protests, according to GW’s protesting policy published in 2011.
Fossil fuel divestment has emerged as a hot topic on GW’s campus in recent years following a student-wide referendum in 2015 in which 72 percent of the student body voted in favor of removing fossil fuel companies from the University’s investment portfolio. Following the vote, officials said divestment was not a part of the University’s investment strategy, but Board Chairman Nelson Carbonell later declined to tell the Student Association Senate whether or not the Board would act on the issue.
“Chairman Carbonell, you have told us to keep pushing for divestment,” Vitoff said. “You have told us to be patient and to continue our campaign and to not be discouraged when time and time again, our pleas to this body are shut down,” Vitoff said at the meeting.
Neither Carbonell nor LeBlanc immediately acknowledged the protesters, but Carbonell said at the end of the meeting that “free expression is a really important part of having an academic community,” even if officials and students do not always agree on the best way to move forward.
“We respect free speech on this campus,” LeBlanc said in an interview after the meeting. “They had something they wanted to say, and it was an important message, and everybody in the room heard it.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Matt Zimmer’s name in a photo caption. The spelling is now correct. We regret this error.