Divestment protesters interrupt Regulatory Studies Center anniversary event

Media Credit: Ari Golub | Staff Photographer

Members of Sunrise GW, a youth-led movement aimed at curbing the climate crisis, disrupted a panel discussion at the Regulatory Study Center's 10-year anniversary event Tuesday.

Updated: Feb. 5, 2020 at 1:12 p.m.

Roughly 35 members of the fossil fuel divestment advocacy group Sunrise GW protested an event commemorating the Regulatory Studies Center’s 10th anniversary Tuesday.

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., students dressed in business casual attire interrupted a panel discussion in the Marvin Center’s Grand Ballroom and delivered a short speech denouncing the RSC’s donations from people and groups affiliated with the fossil fuel industry. The demonstration comes two days after University President Thomas LeBlanc apologized for likening a majority in favor of shuttering the RSC to a hypothetical majority in favor of “shooting” African-Americans on campus.

“You all at the Regulatory Studies Center like to lie and masquerade as a legitimate institution – to act like you are an objective organization, as if you have a shred of integrity,” a protester said in a prepared speech. “We’re here to say we know exactly who you are, and what you’ve done.”

The RSC has received criticism throughout its history and been accused of harboring a right-wing bent for accepting funding from donors like ExxonMobil and the Charles Koch Foundation. The center has hosted events with prominent government officials, and members of the center have had their work published in peer-reviewed academic journals, like the Supreme Court Economic Review and Administrative Law Review.

Susan Dudley, the center’s director and a distinguished professor of practice, could not be immediately reached for comment, but told The Hatchet last month that the center does not accept funding conditional on hiring certain people or reaching particular research conclusions. She added that all research supported by outside groups is “clearly identified.”

“In addition to complying with all the University’s policies on research integrity, the center has long had additional policies,” she said in January.

Ari Golub | Staff Photographer

Students with Sunrise GW sing “Which Side Are You On?” outside of the Regulatory Studies Center’s event after disrupting a panel.

Protesters interrupted a panel titled “Regulatory Lessons from the Last Century” that featured four professors and Sally McGibbon – the general counsel at the Administrative Conference of the United States. The panel followed appearances from U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., earlier in the day, according to the event’s registration page.

Once the panel guests were introduced, sophomore Joe Markus – a Sunrise GW member – blew a whistle, inciting some student protesters to stand up, while others rushed the stage with a megaphone.

Following a short speech, the protesters sang lyrics like “storms surge and fires burn, but you don’t hear the call” as they exited the room. Demonstrators gathered in Kogan Plaza after the event to celebrate.

Ari Golub | Staff Photographer

Following the disruption, students met in Kogan Plaza and celebrated.

Pranay Somayajula, a sophomore who protested the event, said the center operates as a “blatant ideological propaganda factory” that tries to pass claims as objective truth by attaching itself to GW.

“I as a student at GW am not comfortable being at an institution that is allowing this sort of propaganda to be produced with its name attached to it when this propaganda is going to directly impact my future and the future of people I love,” Somayajula said.

Dasha Boswell, a freshman who protested the event, said GW’s support of the RSC is “unethical” because it prioritizes the financial interests of corporations above the desires of the student body.

“I don’t think it’s fair to the student body for them to be having something such as the RSC being a way to provide misinformation to the student body,” she said.

Sunrise GW has announced they will deliver a letter to LeBlanc demanding that officials divest from fossil fuel companies and cut ties with the RSC tomorrow afternoon, according to a Facebook post.

Ari Golub and Arielle Bader contributed reporting.

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