On June 4th, the GWU Faculty Association received confirmation in an email from President LeBlanc that senior leadership believes layoffs at GW cannot be avoided. While layoffs have yet to be officially announced, such an announcement is seemingly imminent. Our friends in the senate tell us that there are administration task forces considering both faculty and staff layoffs. This is the reality before us, despite the fact that the administration’s own financial calculations show that layoffs or furloughs are unnecessary even in their own worst-case projections for the financial consequences of the pandemic. Faculty at GW must be prepared to respond rationally and responsibly to any declaration that GW employees will be fired from their jobs.
We believe that responding rationally and responsibly includes refusing to participate in any work or decision-making that will be required to make our current colleagues former ones.
Why is this the rational and responsible thing to do?
As employees of GW, we are all invested in the health of our University. The pandemic’s dramatic impact on life in the United States has brought into sharp relief the danger of running institutions on threadbare budgets, insufficient staff, too little fear of rainy days, and not enough regard for longevity. Firing faculty and staff in response to temporary conditions that can be met with temporary fixes misses this undeniable lesson. LeBlanc and Speights’s insistence on instituting layoffs can only be interpreted as an irrational and irresponsible neglect of the long-term health of GW. Those of us who fulfill the mission of the University day in and day out have an obligation to defend the University against decisions that threaten it.
The Faculty Association is calling on all members and non-members alike to sign this pledge. Your signature represents a public commitment to using whatever power and influence you have to obstruct and resist these layoffs. Because we still lack details about the layoffs, we believe faculty must start acting now, in concert with trusted colleagues and networks, with the ultimate aim of harnessing local initiatives into a broader, coordinated effort. We suggest the following ideas as starting points, but you know best what leverage is at your disposal:
- HARNESS THE POWER OF TENURE: Tenured faculty are the least likely to be laid off. Now is the time to use your tenure for the good of a university that has been, to this point, good to you. Collaborate with your tenured colleagues to oppose layoffs as a departmental initiative. Make public all efforts you are taking to stop GW from firing employees. Refuse to fulfill your obligations until contracts are renewed/established. These latter two initiatives apply especially to tenured faculty who currently hold administrative positions.
- CLOSE RANKS: Refuse any request to identify faculty or staff colleagues as targets for layoffs and, by the same token, refuse to identify especially essential colleagues (with the implication that those not so identified are ‘disposable’).
- JAM THE SYSTEM: “Forget” to do any and all paperwork that can be conceivably connected to layoffs or furloughs. Refuse to “volunteer” colleagues for additional committee work or pedagogical training until contracts are renewed/established.
- CHANGE THE NARRATIVE: Explain to everyone you know (colleagues, reporters, BOT members, donors, etc.) that the financial crisis at GW is a myth, and that these layoffs are the insidious project of a short-term, short-sighted administration that has no commitment to the wellbeing of GW. We have created a template for you to draw from, and we direct you to the Faculty Association’s research on the administration’s lies about GW’s financial status, as well as the cronyism of the LeBlanc administration.
The idea is to use whatever your position is within the university to impede the unnecessary and destructive layoffs. Together, we can pursue the most reasonable and responsible path before us, one that ensures GW remains one of the premier research and teaching Universities in the country long after this moment has passed.
The Pledge: I commit myself to using the power of my position at GW, to the greatest possible extent that I am able, to challenge, impede, and disrupt any and all of the layoffs of faculty and staff with which the university administration threatens the well being of GW and of my colleagues and coworkers.