Divest GW From Fossil Fuels
February 5, 2020: Our recent letter to members.
Dear GWUFA members,
We are writing to announce GWFUA’s endorsement of a new, student-led campaign targeting GW’s complicity in the climate crisis. Students in GW Sunrise are demanding that GW (1) “Close or cut ties with the Regulatory Studies Center or publicly disclose its funding, motivations, and anti-regulation agenda; and (2) Immediately divest the university endowment from the fossil fuel industry.” GWUFA is proud to join the steadily growing coalition powering this important campaign.
GW Sunrise is asking faculty to show their support by signing on to the letter that outlines and explains their demands. You can read and sign the letter here. If you want to learn more about the Regulatory Studies Center, an academic center housed by GW but heavily funded by petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch and ExxonMobil, you can read the thorough report conducted by Public Citizen here. Despite describing itself as an “objective, unbiased” program, Public Citizen found that the Center’s submissions to government agencies overwhelmingly opposed more stringent regulations–this was the case 96% of the time.
As members of the faculty, your signature is especially meaningful in light of recent comments made by President LeBlanc that characterized GW’s current relationship to the Regulatory Studies Center as a question of “academic free speech.” GWUFA would like to remind the university administration that academic freedom and freedom of speech are two distinct concepts (and that academic free speech is not a concept at all). Academic freedom is not the freedom to reach whatever scholarly conclusions one chooses, but is a far more limited endeavor, beholden to the standards established by the community of experts that comprise one’s field of study. Individuals are free to say whatever they want about the climate, but that speech is different from claims arrived at through research conducted in accordance with rigorous standards, and motivated by the pursuit of knowledge as a good in itself. Not only are climate scientists in agreement that we have a limited window in which to keep the warming of the planet from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius, but they reached this conclusion independently of outside influence, and by conducting research that met the standards set by their community of experts.
It is the role of the University to safeguard academic freedom, and one important way of doing this is by ensuring that research is insulated from outside pressures, such as market or political incentives. We hope that you consider adding your signature to the over 1,500 signatories the letter has already garnered.
GWUFA Statement on President LeBlanc’s Comments, Feb. 5, 2020
Like much of the GW community, we in the GWU Faculty Association were appalled when we heard President LeBlanc casually invoking a hypothetical plan to murder African American students as an example of a majority decision that he would disregard. This is precisely the sort of thing we worried about four years ago when we opposed the lack of diversity on the presidential search committee. The Board of Trustees ignored our concerns and went forward with the skewed committee that they had already appointed. We see President LeBlanc’s remark as one of the results of that earlier disregard for diversity and inclusion. The Hatchet’s coverage from that time can be found here, here, and here.
The George Washington University needs a president who welcomes all students and who goes the extra mile to make sure that students of color know they are valued and safe on the GW campus. A president who makes glib comments — whether on or off the record — about racist murders is not that president.
We hope that the Board of Trustees will rethink their habitual disdain for faculty input. President Leblanc’s callous remarks are just one of a number of deeply offensive acts that might have been avoided had the university administration respected the voices of students, staff, and faculty committed to making the GW community a place where we can all flourish.