At least 500 protesters will take a stand Sunday on the National Mall as the University hands an honorary degree to the world’s richest man, one of the protest’s organizers said Thursday.
Demonstrators will descend on Commencement to call out Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim for vulturous and monopolistic business practices, said Andres Ramirez, a leader of the Two Countries One Voice human rights organization that has picketed outside Rice Hall since May 11.
The organization of Latino leaders, students and community activists sent a letter May 8 to University President Steven Knapp, demanding Slim be uninvited to Commencement. But Ramirez said Vice President of External Relations Lorraine Voles said May 16 that Slim’s invitation would not be rescinded.
“I am not frustrated by the discussions [with the University]. This issue caught GWU off guard, and these things generally take time to resolve,” Ramirez said in an email.
University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard did not immediately return a request for comment on how GW would respond to the organization’s plan to picket at graduation.
Ramirez has claimed that Slim donated to the University, alleging that monetary ties were the deciding factor in the GW’s decision to award him the President’s Medal in 2009 and the honorary degree this year. Ramirez claimed the billionaire donated to GW in 2010 as part of an initiative combatting tropical diseases through the Sabin Vaccine Institute – which was partnered with the University at the time.
Slim did not donate directly to GW as part of the initiative, University spokeswoman Candace Smith said.
Sabin Vaccine Institute communications officer Johanna Harvey declined to release the amount of Slim’s contribution.