Florida cronyism and the projected budget crisis at GW

From Florida to GW: Thomas LeBlanc, Brian Blake, and Mark Diaz (not pictured here) also wore the mouse ears at the University of Miami. Source: University of Miami Information Technology Newsletter, December 2014.
19 May 2020

Dear GWUFA Members,  

No doubt many of you have been thinking about LeBlanc’s vague but ominous warning on May 11th that, because compensation makes up a “significant share of our budget, we will have to make personnel decisions that affect all of us.” LeBlanc’s announcement followed on heels of the May 8th Faculty Senate meeting where Chair Grace Speights began a discussion on the University budget by declaring that there were areas where “the fat can be cut.” These troubling comments, combined with Speights’ firm stance that the University endowment cannot be used to help us weather the pandemic, make clear that we need a transparent accounting of GW’s current financial health–especially what Speights imagines as “fat.” We have written directly to Speights to request a more detailed accounting. We are writing to ask for your help in amplifying this request. Please use the sample language provided below to email your chairs so that they have an ask to pass along to the deans, so that the deans can share multiple reports of this faculty demand to central administration.

We also encourage you to register for the virtual Q&A with President LeBlanc and Provost Blake this Thursday (May 21) so that we can further amplify this ask. We are also writing to share a hunch, which is that, if there is any “fat” in GW’s budget, it is concentrated in the ever growing upper administration and its wasteful Disney culture initiative. 

As GWUFA’s “Cronyism at GW” map reveals, President LeBlanc has used his short tenure at GW to staff senior positions with colleagues from the University of Miami. One of these hires was announced after the University implemented a hiring freeze meant to insulate the University from the economic impacts of COVID-19. It was a position that had never existed before. Along with these questionable hiring decisions, LeBlanc presided over a contract with the Disney Institute, also of Florida, that cost the University millions of dollars (LeBlanc has repeatedly refused to reveal how many millions, despite repeated requests for this information from the Faculty Senate.) GWUFA’s map provides evidence of LeBlanc’s cronyism and his concerning, one-size-fits all approach to leadership. It raises serious questions about the calculations he outlined in his May 11th notice. A compassionate and courageous leader does not threaten their community with joblessness while continuing to confer untold millions on cronies from his Florida days.It was not so long ago that LeBlanc’s signature strategic vision for the University was a plan that would deliberately decrease student enrollment and create a budget shortfall to the tune of tens of millions of dollars–a plan he insisted on implementing in spite of clear threats to the University’s bottom line. Now, as the University scrambles to ensure its physical and financial health, we are being told that the “fat” is us, those of us who directly carry out GW’s core mission of teaching and research. Although the erratic jockeying of GW’s senior leadership suggests otherwise, it is possible to think clearly in times of crisis. Thinking clearly requires an accounting of past decisions and a sober analysis of how well those choices set us up to weather the current storm. Only with this knowledge should we even begin to contemplate “personnel decisions that affect all of us.” A compassionate and courageous leader would work  to secure their community rather than send foreboding emails at the start of remote work week number nine. Before even contemplating  furloughs or layoffs, we must have a transparent accounting of the fiscal health of the university, including the millions spent by LeBlanc and his friends in an attempt to turn GW into a Disney-themed corporation. A compassionate and courageous leader would provide nothing less.  In Solidarity, GWUFA Steering Committee
Sample language for email to your department chairs:
 “President LeBlanc’s May 11th notice to the GW community stated he anticipates the necessity of furloughs, layoffs and salary cuts in order to mitigate the financial losses wrought by the pandemic. Yet, the only information we have been provided about the budget was shared at the Faculty Senate meeting on May 8th: predictions of $100 million, $200 million, or $300 million shortfalls depending on three different scenarios for fall instruction. As a faculty member, I am asking that the university share more details about the university budget. Specifically, how did the University arrive at these respective amounts? How much of the predicted shortfalls include the reduction in enrollment that was a part of LeBlanc’s signature 20/30 strategic plan, a plan that the administration was pushing forward despite a projected loss of $76 million? How much of the predicted shortfalls should be attributed to expensive contracts issued to the Disney Institute? Why is the administration considering furloughs and layoffs rather than extending the period of salary cuts for GW’s highest paid employees (currently set to begin in July 2020 and end in Dec 2020), securing a loan, or drawing on the endowment (a practice that is consistent with GW’s normal budget operations)? In the interest of shared governance, this information should be shared with the university community.”  If you registered for the Virtual Q&A you can include the following: “I plan to raise these questions myself at the Virtual Q&A with President LeBlanc and Provost Blake. If you are able to attend, I ask that you help amplify these concerns by posing similar questions. Thank you for your work on this!” 

Published by GWUFA

GWUFA is a grass-roots, faculty-run organization and has no official relation to the university administration or the Faculty Senate.

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