March 4, 2020: Letter from GW Board Chair to GW Faculty

Dear Members of the GW Faculty:

Following months of planning and debate, we thought it important to share some reflections on the strategic planning process and our renewed commitments to you and the George Washington University community. We have listened and heard your concerns, and together, we commit to meaningful communication and consultation with the faculty before making important academic decisions of shared governance.

We are grateful to the more than sixty faculty members who have served on strategic planning committees and the Strategic Planning Task Force and to those who have attended town hall, Faculty Assembly, and Faculty Senate meetings throughout the year. In these forums, in many other conversations, as well as through written feedback, the faculty has demonstrated its commitment to excellence and dedication to GW and its future.

Working with the Faculty Senate, we previously revised the timeline for the strategic planning process in response to concerns that the pace of planning was too rapid. We also heard concerns about the sufficiency of the information and data shared by the administration.

Specifically, we recognize that there are concerns about how the aspirational 20/30 enrollment targets were determined. The reduction in the size of the incoming classes on the Foggy Bottom campus is intended to strengthen the quality of the undergraduate educational experience, improve student life, and respond proactively to forecasted declines in the traditional college-age population. At a time when national enrollments are declining and GW enrollment is legally capped at the Foggy Bottom campus, this reduction will provide flexibility and sustainability for the operating model. The increased focus on STEM is intended to complement our historic strengths, increase intellectual diversity in accordance with our aspirational statement, and prepare students for increasingly technological working environments. 

To help address these concerns going forward, Provost Blake has convened a Future Enrollment Task Force, which includes representatives from the Faculty Senate, academic leadership, and students, to explore options for implementation of the 20/30 targets in more detail. This group will share data and recommendations regularly through the Provost’s report to the Faculty Senate beginning March 13. Once implementation plans are finalized in consultation with the faculty, we commit to evaluating progress on these goals with the Faculty Senate annually to determine whether we are meeting the expectations of the 20/30 targets.

As the university works toward its aspirational goals, we commit to providing more data associated with key metrics (such as diversity, meeting financial needs of students, and maintaining high quality enrollment standards), as well as associated financial implications. The Board supports the administration’s commitment to annually report and review those metrics and data with the primary constituent groups of the university community, including the Faculty Senate and its committees.  If the circumstances do not support the current strategy, the administration and the Board of Trustees will adapt the plan and targets as appropriate. 

To reiterate, we heard you and we commit to:improving communication and meaningful consultation with the faculty when making academic decisions of shared governance;sharing relevant data and analytics with the Faculty Senate before critical academic decisions are finalized;evaluating annually progress on enrollment goals with the Faculty Senate;providing relevant data on key metrics including diversity, financial aid, and resource allotment.

These commitments reflect our belief that our faculty is indispensable — integral not only to our mission of teaching and research but also to the vigorous discussions that will guide our future. We hope that these renewed commitments, the continued work to finalize a strategic plan and the associated implementation plans that will follow, will allow the Board, the administration, the faculty, staff, students, and the entire GW community to work together toward a shared vision of preeminence.

Sincerely,

Grace Speights
Chair, Board of Trustees

Thomas LeBlanc
President

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