GWUFA stands in solidarity with the Student Association. We not only support them, we are proud of them.
In case any further proof was needed, on October 2nd Grace Speights demonstrated why she is unfit to be the Chair of the Board of Trustees at any university. At the Board meeting on that day, she berated GW undergraduate Howard Brookins, the president of the Student Association, for his executive order calling on the GW community to suspend any donations until Tom LeBlanc is replaced.
“Encouraging a no-donate pledge is just incomprehensible to me,” Speights explained to Brookins. “Donations are the lifeblood of GW and provide tremendous benefits to the students you serve.”
Prioritizing community, justice, and morality over money may be incomprehensible to Speights, LeBlanc, and the Board of Trustees, but it is immediately comprehensible to those of us committed to critical thinking, strong ideals, and speaking truth – the central values of any university. That Speights would publicly castigate one of our students for daring to practice what we teach makes clear her attitude toward GW.
It is not as if the students haven’t tried speaking with the deference that the Speights-LeBlanc administration seems to prefer. The students have tried polite appeals. They have tried articles and petitions. They have tried protests and complaints and following established procedures. LeBlanc and Speights have ignored all of their appeals. This should not surprise us, because LeBlanc and Speights have also consistently ignored faculty as well, including our unanimous vote at last year’s Faculty Assembly, the numerous objections of the Faculty Senate, and our many petitions and op-eds. Our students are smart people, and they know that LeBlanc and Speights will not ignore a threat couched in the only language GW’s leadership seems to understand: money.
No one who has spent more than a moment engaging young adults would have responded the way Speights did to students who had the courage to speak their minds. In prioritizing fundraising over the campus community’s demand for accountability, transparency, representation, and democratic process, Speights showed why Howard Brookins was exactly right to call for students, faculty, and staff to have seats on the Board of Trustees.
Grace Speights seems unfamiliar with what universities do, what faculty teach and what students learn. She does not seem to know that we teach students to speak truth to power. She does not seem to know that we teach students to stand up for causes they think are just, even if that means facing personal costs. She does not seem to know that we teach students to make their voices heard and to organize to make change in the world, whether in the streets, at the polls, or indeed, in the meetings of boards.
Speights does not seem to know that students, faculty, and staff
are the university.
By standing up to the insults and contempt of Speights, Howard Brookins provided the GW community with a valuable lesson and an admirable example. This will not be the last time our students are forced to confront wealthy and powerful authority figures who greet their demands for justice with indifference and contempt. This will not be the last time our students will have to respond with dignity and solidarity to being belittled and dismissed.
We stand in solidarity with the Student Association. We not only support the students, we are proud of them. We urge all faculty to stand up for the students, just as the students are standing up for GW.
Sign the Student Association’s NoDonatePledge. And please forward the link to all the GW affiliates you know.
MEDIA CREDIT: FILE PHOTO BY ALEXANDER WELLING | SENIOR HATCHET STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER