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

GWUFA Petition for LeBlanc’s Resignation

February 26, 2020

We, the undersigned George Washington University faculty, call on Thomas LeBlanc to resign from his position as president of our university. Our demand gains its urgency from the racist remarks made by President LeBlanc and his insufficient apology (here and here).

We understand LeBlanc’s comment to be just the latest evidence of his disregard for both diversity and democracy at GW. Just a few of his most egregious earlier acts include:

  1. proposing a strategic plan that will have a negative effect on the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of GW’s student body.  Despite repeated faculty protests LeBlanc has shown no recognition of this concern;
  2. setting the university on a course that drastically reduces income without a plan to make up the shortfall, thus creating a condition of financial insecurity and jeopardizing academic programs, faculty, students, and staff
  3. ignoring a formal request for information about this plan by the Faculty Assembly;
  4. paying consultants from the Disney Corporation unknown amounts of University funds to assess and then overhaul GW’s “culture” through a top-down training initiative, the latest of which includes bringing senior administrators to an expensive Disney resort in Florida to attend a Disney-led training program that concludes with each participant creating “a written commitment and action plan to present to President Tom LeBlanc” and the Disney-designed culture he is seeking to impose on GW. GW is a university, not a corporate cult!

A president like this–who engages in activities like these, including making blatantly racist remarks–is made possible by a lack of shared governance between the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, and staff. Indeed, Thomas LeBlanc was selected by a committee that completely excluded faculty of color despite the repeated objections of GW community members.

Click here to sign!

Numerous individuals and groups on campus have repudiated President LeBlanc’s racist remarks. These include the GWU Faculty Association, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Progressive Student Union, and the YDSA GW. Now it is time to act. We believe it is essential to show students, staff, and faculty of color that the entire GW community stands with them in their right to safety and respect from the highest levels on this campus.

We want to see GW become a university that reflects the diversity of the city, the country, and the world in which it is located.  We want to see it enhance the existing strengths of its students, staff, and faculty rather than pursuing wild pipe dreams seemingly better designed to pad an administrative c.v. than to serve the university. The undemocratic and exclusionary selection of Thomas LeBlanc as president has  moved us in the opposite direction: a chaotic and top-down institution marked by haphazard administrative decrees, racism, and a demoralized community. We the undersigned declare: enough is enough.  It is time to show Thomas LeBlanc the door and to put GW on a course worthy of its considerable potential.

Click here to sign!

GWUFA Petition for LeBlanc’s Resignation

February 26, 2020

We, the undersigned George Washington University faculty, call on Thomas LeBlanc to resign from his position as president of our university. Our demand gains its urgency from the racist remarks made by President LeBlanc and his insufficient apology (here and here).

We understand LeBlanc’s comment to be just the latest evidence of his disregard for both diversity and democracy at GW. Just a few of his most egregious earlier acts include:

  1. proposing a strategic plan that will have a negative effect on the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of GW’s student body.  Despite repeated faculty protests LeBlanc has shown no recognition of this concern;
  2. setting the university on a course that drastically reduces income without a plan to make up the shortfall, thus creating a condition of financial insecurity and jeopardizing academic programs, faculty, students, and staff
  3. ignoring a formal request for information about this plan by the Faculty Assembly;
  4. paying consultants from the Disney Corporation unknown amounts of University funds to assess and then overhaul GW’s “culture” through a top-down training initiative, the latest of which includes bringing senior administrators to an expensive Disney resort in Florida to attend a Disney-led training program that concludes with each participant creating “a written commitment and action plan to present to President Tom LeBlanc” and the Disney-designed culture he is seeking to impose on GW. GW is a university, not a corporate cult!

A president like this–who engages in activities like these, including making blatantly racist remarks–is made possible by a lack of shared governance between the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, and staff. Indeed, Thomas LeBlanc was selected by a committee that completely excluded faculty of color despite the repeated objections of GW community members.

Click here to sign!

Numerous individuals and groups on campus have repudiated President LeBlanc’s racist remarks. These include the GWU Faculty Association, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Progressive Student Union, and the YDSA GW. Now it is time to act. We believe it is essential to show students, staff, and faculty of color that the entire GW community stands with them in their right to safety and respect from the highest levels on this campus.

We want to see GW become a university that reflects the diversity of the city, the country, and the world in which it is located.  We want to see it enhance the existing strengths of its students, staff, and faculty rather than pursuing wild pipe dreams seemingly better designed to pad an administrative c.v. than to serve the university. The undemocratic and exclusionary selection of Thomas LeBlanc as president has  moved us in the opposite direction: a chaotic and top-down institution marked by haphazard administrative decrees, racism, and a demoralized community. We the undersigned declare: enough is enough.  It is time to show Thomas LeBlanc the door and to put GW on a course worthy of its considerable potential.

Click here to sign!

GWUFA Petition calling on LeBlanc to resign

February 26, 2020

GWUFA has been working working with the GW faculty senate and the faculty assemblies to bring accountability to President Thomas LeBlanc and the GW administration. The Feb. 25 faculty assembly was a triumph in many ways. And we eagerly await what next steps the Faculty Senate will take in response to the Assembly’s resounding support for their push back on the administration’s stonewalling.

At the same time, the GWU Faculty Association has concluded that it is also time to call on President LeBlanc to resign. We hope you will read and sign the petition below. It is open to all faculty members, whether GWUFA members or not, whether full- or part-time. Faculty without tenure have the option of signing the petition anonymously, though we ask that they still give us their information to verify their anonymous signatures.Please circulate this petition as widely as possible and encourage your colleagues to sign it

We will not publish the petition until we have at least 100 signatures, at least 50 of which are not anonymous.
 We, the undersigned George Washington University faculty, call on Thomas LeBlanc to resign from his position as president of our university. Our demand gains its urgency from the racist remarks made by President LeBlanc and his insufficient apology (here and here). We understand LeBlanc’s comment to be just the latest evidence of his disregard for both diversity and democracy at GW. Just a few of his most egregious earlier acts include: proposing a strategic plan that will have a negative effect on the racial, ethnic, and economic diversity of GW’s student body.  Despite repeated faculty protests LeBlanc has shown no recognition of this concern;setting the university on a course that drastically reduces income without a plan to make up the shortfall, thus creating a condition of financial insecurity and jeopardizing academic programs, faculty, students, and staffignoring a formal request for information about this plan by the Faculty Assembly;paying consultants from the Disney Corporation unknown amounts of University funds to assess and then overhaul GW’s “culture” through a top-down training initiative, the latest of which includes bringing senior administrators to an expensive Disney resort in Florida to attend a Disney-led training program that concludes with each participant creating “a written commitment and action plan to present to President Tom LeBlanc” and the Disney-designed culture he is seeking to impose on GW. GW is a university, not a corporate cult! A president like this–who engages in activities like these, including making blatantly racist remarks–is made possible by a lack of shared governance between the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, and staff. Indeed, Thomas LeBlanc was selected by a committee that completely excluded faculty of color despite the repeated objections of GW community members.

Click here to sign! Numerous individuals and groups on campus have repudiated President LeBlanc’s racist remarks. These include the GWU Faculty Association, the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the Progressive Student Union, and the YDSA GW. Now it is time to act. We believe it is essential to show students, staff, and faculty of color that the entire GW community stands with them in their right to safety and respect from the highest levels on this campus.

We want to see GW become a university that reflects the diversity of the city, the country, and the world in which it is located.  We want to see it enhance the existing strengths of its students, staff, and faculty rather than pursuing wild pipe dreams seemingly better designed to pad an administrative c.v. than to serve the university. The undemocratic and exclusionary selection of Thomas LeBlanc as president has  moved us in the opposite direction: a chaotic and top-down institution marked by haphazard administrative decrees, racism, and a demoralized community. We the undersigned declare: enough is enough.  It is time to show Thomas LeBlanc the door and to put GW on a course worthy of its considerable potential.

Click here to sign!

Divest GW from Fossil Fuels

Photo from the GW Hatchet

GW students are taking to the streets to demand divestment from fossil fuels. They delivered a letter to President LeBlanc, and then marched to his house to protest GW’s investments in the destruction of the climate. GW invests 3% of its endowment in fossil fuels.

GWUFA issued a statement in support, and also explained the serious problems with President LeBlanc’s insistence that the Regulatory Studies Center — which regularly argues for protecting climate-destroying corporations — is protected by academic freedom and therefore GWU can’t respond to concerns about the group’s independence and credibility. GWUFA thinks otherwise.

GW’s Sunrise campaign is asking GW to divest–you can sign the petition here–and to come clean about the ties to the Regulatory Studies Center.

GWUFA Statement on LeBlanc’s Racial Comments

Local news coverage of President LeBlanc’s racially “insensitive” remarks broadly condemned his use of a comparison about a hypothetical plan to kill African American students to explain his opposition to cutting ties with the Regulatory Studies Center.

GW President Thomas LeBlanc made a stunning comment to a student activist this week that explained his opposition to cutting ties to the fossil-fuel friendly Regulatory Studies Center by comparing student demands to divest from fossil fuels and cut ties to the Center to a hypothetical plan to kill all the African American students at GW. GWUFA issued a strong statement of protest, making clear the organization’s support for students and faculty of color at GW. Our statement, which also highlighted the lack of diversity of the committee that hired President LeBlanc, was covered by the GW Hatchet. The story of LeBlanc’s statement and his subsequent apology was covered by the Washington Post, Fox 5 news, WAMU radio, and WTOP.

Nov. 7, 2019: Disney culture article in the Chronicle

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a detailed article about the Disney Culture initiative. As the article makes clear, GW faculty who are concerned about this program are not saying that we shouldn’t improve GW’s environment: we like responsive and empowered staff, respect for everyone, a shared sense of supporting the educational and research mission of the university. We definitely want to challenge any “transactional” model of the student experience, which is one problem the “culture survey” identified. But an alternative is NOT what the Disney Institute provided. Instead, it offered anodyne and sometimes condescending models of what change might look like, such as suggesting that if we all just “reach higher,” things will be fine.

As one person in the article said: “It tells people that they need to do more without dealing with the workplace hurdles that make them struggle in the first place.”

We want to deal with those hurdles. For example, we want more staffing in places where it is needed, so people are not just working longer hours for no extra pay. We want lower class sizes and lower teaching loads for faculty, so students get the personalized attention the administration claims to be interested in providing. We want fewer part-time teachers, who cannot (and should not) be expected to provide the kind of office hours support, recommendation letters, and student engagement that are the hallmarks of a great undergraduate or graduate education. We want more tenure lines, and an end to GW’s systematic undermining of the principle of a tenured faculty. What we don’t want is money thrown at “trainings” that do not actually address the on-the-ground reality of our work lives.

Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. This is true not just for faculty, but for staff at all levels.

Working conditions are learning conditions.

More more on the latest news stories on GWUFA and GW, see our “GWUFA Getting Press” page.

Check out the media coverage this week (late October 2019)!

Take a look at the news coverage about the various ways that faculty (and staff, and others) are responding to the administration’s initiatives. We want to be clear: we are not afraid of change! GW needs to continue to grow and evolve. GWUFA wants GW to do well with STEM, to be good to our students, to have a strong institutional culture, and to treat faculty, staff, and students with respect. But none of this can happen in a context of a rush to push top-down initiatives that don’t genuinely consult about the best ways forward for GW. We have been handed a $64 million budget shortfall and a group of committees have been told to figure out how to improve GW in that context. It doesn’t make sense. Consult and consider. Share information. We have a great faculty and great students and alums and staff at GW. We don’t need pronouncements, we need engagement and shared governance.

This is What Shared Governance Looks Like!

October 23rd: There was amazing support to pass the petition at the Faculty Assembly on Oct. 22! The record number of faculty attending shows that we are concerned and willing to participate in significant ways to shape the future of our university.

Shared Gov

GWUFA is pleased and proud to have played a role in organizing people to come out to the Assembly. But we are mostly delighted to be part of this faculty — the folks who came out, whether GWUFA members or not, and spoke out strongly in favor of more input, genuine shared governance, and a commitment to a more excellent and equitable university that supports all the strengths of GWU.

Now’s the time to get involved. Join one of the GWUFA Committees. Sign up to be a member and get our regular updates. And, hey, money isn’t the most important thing, but it’s useful. You can donate here.

Urgent: Faculty Assembly Meeting Oct. 22

THIS IS CRUCIAL

One of the principles and strengths of the university system is its bedrock systems of shared governance. At this crucial moment at GW we need to make our voices heard and exercise our right and responsibility for shared governance. Accordingly, GWUFA supported a set of 6 motions to be considered by all faculty at the next Faculty Assembly which meets at 4:00 PM on Tuesday, October 22 in Jack Morton Auditorium, 805 21st Street NW.

In order for these motions to even be considered or voted on by the Assembly, it is mandatory that at least 125 faculty members be in attendance for the entire Assembly meeting. Without 125, there will be no quorum and no votes. We urge you to attend this meeting!
The full text of the motions is at the Faculty Senate website.
As a group, the motions indicate concern that neither the faculty as a whole nor its elected representatives have been properly consulted in matters that fall under our purview. If passed, these motions direct our representatives on the Faculty Senate and its committees to consider whether the faculty have been properly consulted by the administration and trustees as they shaped the strategic plans to cut the size of the student body and to alter the composition of the student body and thus the curriculum and research profile of the university.
In addition, the motions ask the Senate to evaluate whether the charges for the faculty-led strategic planning committees (appointed by the President) are overly narrow and assume a particular outcome. Further, the motions ask that the faculty have an opportunity, through its elected representatives, to evaluate the findings of the strategic planning committees before they go to the administration and Board of Trustees for implementation.
The last of the motions requests that there be a special meeting of the Assembly so that the faculty as a whole may vote on the findings of the Senate.These motions are intended to allow the faculty to exercise its role in shared governance and to have a vote on, rather than being told, what the university’s future will be.So that these questions can be considered, it is critical that you and your concerned colleagues attend the entire Assembly meeting on October 22 at 4:00 PM in the Jack Morton Auditorium, 805 21st.