Breaking: Georgetown to Avoid Investing in Private Prisons

A5_FossilFree_FilePhotoIsabelBinamiraVia La Hoya | By Jeff Cirillo

Georgetown will not investing in private prison companies in keeping with the university’s Socially Responsible Investing Policy, the university announced yesterday.

The board’s Committee on Finance and Administration, which oversees the university’s management of financial resources, accepted the recommendation of the Committee on Investments and Social Responsibility, announced in March, for the university to avoid investments in private prison companies. CISR makes recommendations to the board on ethical investment policies and consists of 12 members, including faculty, administrators and three students.

The university will “encourage” its external investment managers to “avoid investing in the companies,” according to a university news release Thursday, which said the decision continues an existing practice.

The decision follows the board’s approval of a broad SRI policy in June, which established a general ethical framework for the university’s investment policy. The guidelines broadly require the university to consider the social and environmental impact of companies in which it invests.

Though the SRI Policy requires the university to make “reasonable efforts” toward these goals, it did not strictly require any new divestments, nor did it mandate any policies that would compromise the university’s financial interests. Investments discouraged under the policy include companies involved in providing abortion services, as well as companies deemed to violate “human dignity.”

The recommendation that the university establish a policy of “no direct investment” in private prisons passed in March by a majority vote of the CISR. The recommendation followed a divestment proposal submitted in January by three students: Eman Abdelfadeel (COL ’17), Sophie Bauerschmidt Sweeney (COL ’17) and Salma Khamis (SFS ’17).

The students’ proposal advocated divestment from “all private prison companies and companies that sustain private prisons,” as well as divestment from “companies that knowingly and consistently enable and profit” from the “violent Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

CISR adopted a narrower version of the students’ proposal on private prisons, recommending divestment from private prison companies themselves but excluding any judgment on investing in any other companies that are themselves invested in private prisons.

“The Committee determined it is inconsistent with Georgetown’s Catholic and Jesuit values to hold investments in companies that profit from the incarceration of human beings,” a CISR memo announcing the recommendation read.

While partially supporting the students’ petition on private prisons, the CISR rejected the divestment from Israeli occupation, citing Georgetown community members’ “many different perspectives” on how to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and doubts that the university’s divestment would be an “effective tactic” to end hostilities.

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