What a year this has been across the globe.
And in our little corner of it, GW’s administration has been very …
2020 has been full of shenanigans from the LeBlanc/Speights administration. As a reminder of the year we’ve had:
- Despite repeated faculty and student concern expressed throughout fall semester, President Thomas LeBlanc opens the spring semester reiterating support for the infamous 20/30 plan.
- LeBlanc continues to tout the wonderful world of Disney with faculty culture training workshops. All staff and managers are required to attend. Faculty are strongly “encouraged” to participate.
- LeBlanc responds to a student question about fossil fuel divestment with a facetious remark about shooting Black people.
- Spending on the Disney culture initiative continues with invitations for more “faculty leaders” to sign up for two-day paid trips to the Orlando theme park, “to gain first-hand insight into Disney’s approach to culture.”
- A special meeting of the faculty assembly unanimously endorses the faculty senate’s concerns about the 20/30 plan while LeBlanc sits speechless on the stage.
- COVID moves GW online. The University quickly announces a hiring freeze and suspension of capital projects.
- The LeBlanc administration immediately breaks its hiring freeze to create another provost position charged with managing “special projects.”
- LeBlanc announces a suspension of the strategic plan due to the pandemic. Yet, the damage is already partially done. GW heads into the pandemic with lower enrollment due to fewer admitted students as part of the wrongheaded 20/30 plan.
- Speights tells faculty at the May Senate meeting that GW has “fat that can be cut.”
- LeBlanc now claims that layoffs can no longer be avoided. Layoffs begin and continue for at least four months. The university will ultimately dismiss at least 339 people, many with decades of experience at GW, often in sudden Zoom meetings. But the endowment, according to Speights, must remain untouched.
- The University breaks its own hiring freeze yet again, hiring another new provost.
- Threats of imminent layoffs and payouts continue, as do actual layoffs.
- The administration and the Faculty Senate begin to spar as to the true severity of GW’s financial crisis.
- LeBlanc does not respond to faculty or student demands to address issues of systemic racism at GW.
- The administration makes plans for an in-person fall. Demoralized and short-handed staff are asked to design hybrid teaching tutorials, and faculty dutifully enroll. Three days before the start of August, the University announces it will be entirely online for fall 2020.
AUGUST (brace yourself)
- The administration breaks the hiring freeze for the third time to hire Heather Swain as communications director. Swain had recently helped MSU cover up its role in enabling Larry Nassar’s decades of childhood sexual abuse of gymnasts in his care.
- The University announces that base and matching contributions to all faculty and staff retirement funds will cease starting in October. GW does not reveal whether contributions to the retirement funds of the university’s President, Vice Presidents, and Provosts are also suspended.
- Academic Tech is merged with IT and thrown into chaos right after the move to an online fall was announced. Faculty are not able to get the up-to-date computers they were promised.
- Keeping people on edge, the university announces more layoffs. Rumors float of a ten percent pay cut for faculty and staff.
- After an overwhelming expression of student and faculty outrage, Heather Swain rescinds her acceptance. The university erases any evidence that it once proudly announced her hire.
- GW kicks off a virtual semester with coverage in the Chronicle of Higher Ed detailing LeBlanc’s failed leadership.
- Threats of pay cuts continue.
- Grace Speights publicly berates SA President for daring to take a stand against the university president she is determined to shield from any criticism. GWUFA responds.
- Provost Brian Blake introduces a new “Academic Master Plan,” short on specifics but long on horrifics.
- Faculty Assembly Farce. Assembled faculty are told they are not officially at the meeting so cannot vote on a resolution to poll the faculty for a review of LeBlanc. Then we are told that the only way to change the rules to allow for an online vote would be to have a unanimous vote to make the change, which cannot happen because according to the rules of the Parliamentarian, no online voting can occur in a meeting where we are not actually present. The Parliamentarian took offense at being questioned on the matter.
- Blake announces his newest initiative: a “Post-COVID Academic Innovation Task Force.” When asked by GWUFA how the committees would be formed for the task force and how the (delayed) Academic Master Plan might be envisioned as a more transparent process going forward, he replies in an email, “I stated that ‘development of an Academic Master Plan will be deferred, and is subject to adjustments, following further consultations with FSEC.’ The FSEC is working with me directly to determine a joint planning approach to do academic planning broadly with the greatest degree of transparency and shared governance. I appreciate their collaboration.” Lots of hiding behind the Faculty Senate Executive Committee!
Despite the challenges, lots of nice things have happened too, thanks to the solidarity of faculty, students, and staff working towards the promise of a better GW.
- 120 faculty sign a petition calling for LeBlanc’s resignation.
- The Editorial Board of the Hatchet demands that LeBlanc step down, writing that “LeBlanc’s plan for the future of the University and his past mistakes are out of touch with students and faculty.”
- Concerned to stop the LeBlanc administration’s apparent attempts to use the quarantine to further erode shared governance and push through its misguided initiatives GWUFA begins a COVID-19 watch, gathering and sharing information across the university.
- GWUFA and the Faculty Senate skip our usual summer recesses to keep an eye on the LeBlanc administration, Shining light on a creature that likes to strike in darkness. We will never know what they would have done had the Senate and GWUFA not been keeping an eye on them.
- Swain withdraws her acceptance of the position of Vice President of Communication and Marketing after widespread, student-led outrage and condemnation.
- The Washington Post and Washington City Paper run stories with questions about GW’s leadership.
- GWUFA urges faculty, chairs, and deans to move from anger to action. Four hundred people attend a Faculty Association meeting and form Direct Action and Organizing committees.
- The 20/30 Plan is tabled.
- GWUFA pens an open letter to students advocating better learning and working conditions for all of us.
- LeBlanc’s planned 10% across-the-board and financially unnecessary pay cut for faculty and staff is leaked to GWUFA. GWUFA releases this information to the entire GW community before LeBlanc could message it. The pay cut does not materialize. Our sources inside the administration tell us that the outrage faculty expressed made the administration take this drastic option off the table.
- In response to threatened layoffs and pay cuts, staff at GW found the GW Staff Advocacy and Equity Coalition (GW SAEC), a successor organization to the GW Staff Association.
- Faculty pen an open letter called GWDeservesBetter, garnering over 300 faculty, staff, student, and alumni signatures.
- More faculty initiate an independent initiative calling on the Faculty Senate to pursue a vote of No Confidence in President LeBlanc. Nearly 200 faculty and staff sign.
- In response to the LeBlanc administration’s determination to have in-person instruction despite the pandemic, 589 faculty sign a petition demanding that the administration put safety first.
- GWUFA organizes a powerful demonstration in which nearly 100 people march to LeBlanc’s residence to demand his resignation, and many more watch and support the livestream online.
- Departments, colleges, and student groups across the university issue letters critical of LeBlanc’s actions.
- GW Student Association issues an Executive Order calling on LeBlanc to resign and passes a resolution demanding his resignation.
- The Student Association, with support from GWUFA, organizes and mobilizes a No Donate Pledge calling for GW students, alumni, faculty, and staff to urge the Board of Trustees to act on their demands to urge President LeBlanc’s removal and implement shared governance at every level.
- More than 120 George Washington University faculty members renew their call for the resignation of university President Thomas J. LeBlanc, saying the coronavirus crisis only heightens their concerns about LeBlanc’s vision for the school and past racist comments.
- The threatened pay cuts never materialize.
- Over 600 faculty attempt to assert our voices at our phantom Faculty Assembly.
- Despite vocal opposition from the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate successfully sends a survey to all faculty to assess the LeBlanc administration. What does the Board not want us to find out? We will learn soon….
There’s naughty and there’s nice,
but the real story is that of people coming together
to stop something bad and, more importantly,
to create something and someplace good.