SA Senate urges GW to phase out fossil fuel research funding

Media Credit: Raphael Kellner | Staff Photographer

SA Sen. Sofia Packer, U-at-Large, sponsored the resolution urging officials to eliminate research funding from the fossil fuel industry.

The Student Association Senate passed a resolution calling on the University to phase out research funding received from fossil fuel industry companies Monday.

Senators unanimously passed the No Fossil Fuel Money Act, sponsored by SA Sen. Sofia Packer, U-at-Large, calling on administrators to eventually ban research funding from the fossil fuel industry, including from companies like Exxon Mobil and Chevron. The resolution comes as Sunrise GW continues its campaign pressuring officials to enact a ban on funding from a line of the country’s largest fossil fuel companies through protests and a petition.

“If not for the sake of future generations and for our planet, then for the sake of academic honesty and the principles on which GW rests, we need to commit to phasing out funding from the worst offenders of the climate crisis,” Packer said.

Sunrise GW has openly opposed GW’s ties to fossil fuel companies over the past two years, pushing for the closure of the Regulatory Studies Center and demanding divestment from the fossil fuel industry – a commitment that GW announced last year.

“We are very happy that the SA did the right thing and called on the administration to enact a ban on funding from the fossil fuel industry at GW,” Sunrise GW said in a statement. “We hope that this will signal to the administration and the Board of Trustees the student body’s support of the No Fossil Fuel Money campaign and that they will act to end the influence of the fossil fuel industry on campus.”

Various SA leaders called for the University to fire Alicia Bitler, a GWTeach professor who said the N-word during class on anti-racism, and Marie Matta, a business school professor who denied a student’s service dog from class, during public comment and prepared remarks. SA President Brandon Hill said that he and SA Vice President Kate Carpenter both recently met with interim University President Mark Wrighton to discuss the incidents and call for the professors’ removal.

Hill said members of the executive branch met with representatives from the Princeton Review and GW Libraries administrators last week to purchase GRE, LSAT and MCAT preparation books for the Top Textbooks program in Gelman Library, which reserves books for courses with expensive courses for all GW students. He also announced he joined other student government presidents in calling for President Joe Biden to cancel student debt.

Carpenter read from a statement on behalf SA Sen. Gabriel Young, CCAS-U, who was not at the meeting, saying he was concerned about posters placed on campus depicting a Chinese curler pushing a coronavirus molecule because it could be interpreted as racist toward Asian students on campus.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Asian American community has been a target of racial violence due to the violent rhetoric associated with the Asian American community with the virus due to the impacts of geopolitical rhetoric,” Young said in his statement.

Christy Anthony, the director of the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, presented changes that SRR is currently proposing to the Code of Academic Integrity that the senate will vote on in March. Anthony said the proposed changes would define academic exercises, like exams and papers, and remove the words “intentionally” and “knowingly” from the code so the students would not need to prove intention to falsify information.

“We’ve taken out intentionally or knowingly because the verb here is falsifying, which presumably implies that this is done with intent and knowledge,” Anthony said. “And we have taken out without authorization. We struggled to imagine a situation in which falsifying information deliberately would be permitted.”

Senators unanimously passed a bill to contribute $8,420 to the Club Sports Council to rent fields for 12 club sports teams at a sports complex in Springfield, Va. Senior Hailey Stephany, the president of GW Women’s Club Lacrosse, said the council needs to rent out third-party fields because the Mount Vernon Campus fields do not have field lights for late-night practices.

“GW is one of the few Division I schools that has no lit fields on any campus,” Stephany said.

The senate unanimously passed The Attendance Disciplinary Reform Act, sponsored by SA Sen. Cordelia Scales, SEAS-U and senate chairperson pro-tempore, to update senators’ attendance requirements to include a section on “nonfeasance”. The bill states that any senator who doesn’t attend three consecutive meetings or six non-consecutive full senate meetings during their term should be considered “nonfeasant” and eligible for suspension by the governance and nominations committee.

Once they receive a notice of nonfeasance, the governance and nomination will set a hearing within 14 days of the notice for the absent senator. The committee will then evaluate whether to recommend reinstating them to the senate.

The legislation also states that senators who do not attend four consecutive or eight non-consecutive senate committee meetings during their term will also be considered eligible for suspension. The bill stipulates that a motion to suspend a senator requires a two-thirds vote from the senate to pass.

The bylaws previously did not include provisions for nonfeasance attendance, and said senators had to hold a hearing within five days of the delivered notice instead of the updated 14 days.

The next senate meeting will take place on Feb. 28 at 8:30 p.m. in the University Student Center.

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