Last week the GWU Faculty Association sent a letter to President LeBlanc requesting a 6%-8% raise in a future year, once the university has recovered any financial losses from the pandemic and operations have returned to normal. While our priority remains preventing any layoffs or furloughs, we are also concerned that the present, temporary crisis, not have permanent effects on faculty compensation.
As you know, in recent years GW faculty have received annual merit raises of 3%-4%. The university administration has announced that even those small raises will be suspended this year due to the financial crisis the pandemic and quarantine have caused. Yet, GW faculty members are required to undertake a great deal of extra work this summer, fall, and spring in order to ready each of our courses for three different pedagogical scenarios–online instruction, on-campus instruction, and hybrid or “hyperflex” instruction involving various combinations of in-person and online instruction. For many faculty, this summer’s work will be largely devoted to these multiple course preparations rather than to research and writing. Moreover, many of us must perform this work under an unprecedented level of job insecurity, while all of us work under the threats of possible furloughs, salary cuts, increased health benefits costs, and suspension of university contributions to our retirement benefits.
Last week, the Faculty Association publicized the disturbing remarks of Grace Speights, Chairperson of the GW Board of Trustees, characterizing the university as one with a great deal of financial “fat” that might be cut. The Faculty Association made clear that any “fat” weighing down the university’s budget is concentrated in the university’s bloated and ever-increasing upper administration, where President LeBlanc has hired a raft of his University of Miami cronies to forward his corporate, Mickey Mouse vision for our university. We say any “fat” should be cut from the top rather than the bottom of the GW structure. Any budget shortfalls must be met by deep cuts to administrative salaries of $200 thousand or higher rather than to the barely adequate salaries of adjunct and contract faculty and staff; any layoffs should occur at the upper administrative level of multiple vice presidents and vice provosts, who each manage tiny spheres of campus life but appear to have failed to ensure GW’s sound financial standing, rather than at the level of the faculty and staff members who do the actual work to fulfill the university’s research and teaching mandates.
Furthermore, before the pandemic, quarantine and resulting social crisis, the university had projected a planned reduction in tuition income of approximately $80 million in the interest of President LeBlanc’s infamous 20/30 plan. We the faculty never learned how the university planned to make up for that projected shortfall (despite asking many times). In addition, the university has communicated no hard data supporting the $100-$300 million dollar shortfall it is projecting for AY 2020-21. Meanwhile, the university endowment is approximately $1.76 billion. GW also owns a great deal of highly lucrative real estate. With such huge assets held in reserve, why has GW threatened its faculty and staff, those who carry out the university’s mission, with layoffs, furloughs, and other austerity measures?
Instead, GW must prioritize the remuneration and well-being of the university faculty who develop and share the knowledge so desperately needed across our beleaguered society and who are doing the harrowing work of keeping the university going despite the perpetual pandemic of the corona virus and the corporate austerity measures of the neo-liberal university model. A viable, reasonable first step toward demonstrating the university administration’s respect for faculty and toward rebuilding goodwill between the faculty and the administration would be the promise of high future raises to make up for the many stressors the faculty are enduring as we valiantly work to ensure GW students receive the high quality education they deserve.