There is no financial crisis at GW (pass it on)

Since our last meeting and communication about the Faculty Association’s pledge, we’ve received requests for talking points about GW’s financial situation. We share these points below.

For those of you who have signed, we hope these points help you keep your commitment to stop layoffs. For those of you who haven’t, we hope they illustrate why it is so important to push back against the administration’s false narrative about a financial crisis. 

In fact, the administration is abandoning its narrative of financial crisis, and it is now touting layoffs for their own sake. LeBlanc clearly stated at the last Faculty Senate meeting (6/18) that he does not consider layoffs a last resort, and the administration is now predicting a shortfall much closer to the best case scenario –$100 million. In short, the administration is coming around to our position–the financial situation can be easily weathered without layoffs–while at the same time showing their true colors–the crisis was always a cover to make long-term structural changes. 

The Faculty Association’s pledge asks faculty to organize together because we believe that this is the only pathway to achieving meaningful power within the University. Steering Committee member Sara Matthiesen outlined GWUFA’s approach in a recent Chronicle of Higher Ed article. As she writes, it is not enough for faculty to present reasoned arguments to the administration–our analysis must be accompanied by collective action if we want to build faculty power. We share it here in hopes that it will further assist you in upholding the pledge.

We also encourage you to up the ante on the organizing you’ve been doing thus far. What specific ideas do you have for making sure there are no layoffs? How are you upholding your pledge? How many colleagues have you had conversations with? How many have you convinced that this is their fight, too? Please email us and let us know!

When we organize for collective power, we win. 

In Solidarity,

Talking Points: 
Finances at GW and the Destructive Wastefulness of Layoffs
(Unless otherwise linked, all of these points draw on data we presented in our message of June 3.)

While there are short term financial challenges facing the university, there is NOT a financial crisis that warrants layoffs or furloughs at GW. President LeBlanc and the Board of Trustees have misrepresented their own financial projections to justify cuts to faculty and staff that are, in fact, unnecessary. 

The administration has shown that their description of GW’s financial health cannot be trusted for the following reasons. They are selling off our future at GW for #funnymoney: 

$85 million? $100 million? Where’s the $15 million?

The University’s calculations for its losses in the best case scenario total $85 million, but the LeBlanc Administration has consistently referenced a $100 million shortfall, rounding up $15 million as if it is all just #funnymoney.

What about the cost savings already incurred?

The University’s calculations exclude cost savings that specific units have already been required to make, such as a 10% reduction by CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck, or the $20 million already saved by the immediate freeze on merit increases for AY 2020-21. The LeBlanc administration is not engaged in rational financial planning. It is using #funnymoney to justify cuts to faculty and staff.

Waste and cronies

LeBlanc has consistently demonstrated poor, and even bad-faith, stewardship of GW, wasting GW funds on well-paid positions and lavish consultancies for his Miami colleagues and favored corporations. Now he claims that it is financially necessary to lay off the faculty and staff who carry out GW’s core mission, even while GW continues to dole out millions to these upper administration cronies. Just today GW announced the hiring of yet another upper administrator who will neither teach courses nor conduct research, but will no doubt earn several times the salaries of those of us who do.

Is this the 20/30 plan in disguise?

LeBlanc refused to provide any rational financial or other justification for his 20/30 plan, despite formal requests from the Senate and an unanimous faculty vote to pause implementation at the March 2 special faculty assembly. The plan would have cost GW millions in lost revenue and it aroused concerted faculty opposition in the senate and across the university. Faculty did not fall for the tired anecdotes and warn truisms LeBlanc offered as ‘explanations’ of his decision.  Now he wants to use #funnymoney to justify the unjustifiable.  

Better ideas:
  • There are innumerable ways for GW to meet foreseeable revenue reductions without the draconian layoffs, furloughs and other programmatic cuts with which the LeBlanc administration is threatening the present and future wellbeing of GW:
  1. GW already has more than sufficient financial resources to cover even its own worst-case projections for pandemic-related shortfalls.  These include $500 million in cash reserves, an additional $300 million line of credit at present-day low interest rates, a $1.8 billion endowment, and massive commercial real estate holdings apart from its academic facilities.
  2. The Faculty Senate has, moreover, proposed its own series of cuts and revenue-generating opportunities that do not attack the core mission of GW, and avoid dipping into any of these resources.
  3. The Board of Trustees is obliged to protect in good faith the long-term health of the university.  Investing in its faculty is the best strategy for achieving that objective. Threats of cuts, job insecurity, and other demoralizing and destabilizing tactics have just the opposite effect. So far, the Board of Trustees has worked hand-in-hand withthe LeBlanc administration’s wasteful expenditures on Florida cronies and others and now, as it threatens the university with destructive and unnecessary layoffs of faculty and staff.  We will not be fooled by their bad-faith, #funnymoney accounting. 

Naughty or Nice?

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:








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.   



  • 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 actionFour 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.



  • Over 600 faculty attempt to assert our voices at our phantom Faculty Assembly.


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.

We’re Not Tired, Provost Blake

“I am extremely sensitive to faculty fatigue…” Provost Blake wrote yesterday, describing why he has changed his mind about implementing his “shock doctrine” Academic Master Plan.

We’d like to respond.  

We’re not tired, Blake. We’re energized, we’re focused, and we won’t back down.

The Faculty Association is gratified that we and members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) successfully cooperated to force Provost Blake to postpone and redesign his terrible shock doctrine plan to assess university programs according to an undisclosed return-on-investment (ROI) standard. We accomplished this by standing together and threatening to vote Blake out of his job at the Faculty Assembly on November 18th. 

Blake’s plan, requested and supported by GW’s Board of Trustees, would have cut 25 percent of University programs and would have included layoffs of faculty, even tenured faculty, within those programs. The Plan focused on efficiencies and revenue rather than on scholarly research and service. And, the Plan included “early metrics” on program performance, suggesting that an undisclosed ROI standard has already been applied as a mechanism for corporatizing our University.  

ALL of this had been done without ANY faculty consultation — thus extending the pattern of this administration and the Board of Trustees issuing dictates from above without regard to the will of faculty or staff and treating our University as their corporate dominion.

Endeavoring to spin the story his way, Provost Blake chose to characterize our resistance as “faculty fatigue.” No, Provost Blake, we aren’t fatigued. We are motivated by a firm resolve to defend our university from the continued hubris of administrative leaders and Trustees whose actions are ravaging this University. This is nothing more than our professional duty as university faculty members.

Blake’s email to all faculty pledged to redesign his Academic Master Plan in consultation with the Faculty Senate and according to the principles of shared governance. We will hold him and the rest of the university administration to that pledge. 

There will be no shock doctrine at GW. We are not fatigued. We will continue to uphold the principles of scholarly excellence, equity, and civic engagement. These are the values that guide our work as researchers, teachers, and members of the GW community.

Our university is not a corporation and should not function according to a profit-driven, ROI model. 

The faculty, students and staff have made it clear that we do not support the corporatization of GW. We all have our eyes on you, GW administrators. We are the university. We insist on standards of excellence and equity. 

And we’re not too tired to fight.

In solidarity, 
The GWU Faculty Association 

Trick or Treat?

Boo! It’s that time of year and we have good reason to be scared. The secret reorganization plan Provost Blake is trying to implement—his Shock Doctrine—is even worse than we feared. But there is also a treat. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, November 18 @ 4pm and keep reading to find out what it is.

The Trick

He’s got a plan. He won’t tell us what it entails. That’s scary.

When Blake met with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee last week, he refused to reveal full, specific details on his plan to cut programs at GW: not his metrics, not his criteria, not which programs are under review. But the little he did reveal is horrifying:

  • The evaluation of programs is strictly based on the number of students who take classes in the programs. There is no consideration of the intellectual contributions of programs, the scholarly excellence of the faculty, or even the many sound pedagogical reasons for smaller classes. If you’ve got tenured professors and reasonable class sizes, he’s coming for your program.
  • Provost Blake does not want to be limited by any current structures: Entire departments, programs, and any other administrative units on campus may be subject to significant overhaul, regardless of their scholarly and pedagogical contributions to the university.
  • The only item that matters to Provost Blake is the cost of a program to his office. If a program’s budget comes from its school or college, beware the scythe. If resources come from another upper administrative source (such as CFO Diaz’s office), then those numbers don’t factor into Blake’s analysis. This makes little sense, and is guaranteed to produce absurd inequities across campus.
In short, the only “good” university course in Provost Blake’s book is one that 
fills an amphitheater 
and is taught by adjunct or contingent labor making pennies on the dollar for their work.  

Is this what an excellent and equitable university looks like? We say NO! This administration’s continued attempts to dismantle scholarly excellence and faculty governance at GW must STOP now.  We cannot let Blake’s Shock Doctrine proceed.  

The Treat

Let’s remember, we hold the power here.  We are the university.  And we have procedural power in this instance:  

Professor Harald Griesshammer has drafted a Resolution of No Confidence in the Provost.  Please email Harald at sharedgovernancegwu@gmail.com to see the Resolution and sign his petition to put a Vote of No Confidence on the agenda for the upcoming Faculty Assembly.

Then, mark your calendar for the Faculty Assembly on Wednesday, November 18 @ 4pm, when the entire faculty body can take collective action to ensure that secretive, shocking, scary plans like this are nipped in the bud.  We can say NO to this destructive plan and stand up for our values of outstanding scholarship, excellent pedagogy, and fully shared governance.

In solidarity,

Shock Doctrine at GW

It’s called “the shock doctrine.”

A nation, city, corporation, or university falls on hard times, and eventually the axes begin to drop. Budgets are slashed. Programs are cut. And while the pain is felt first and foremost among the most vulnerable, the damage is systemic. Even the winners are losers.

Unless we all take action to demand a new path forward, GW’s current administration will continue the shock doctrine at our university.  

The plan is to be launched this coming February.

GW’s leadership is planning to dramatically overhaul the university into a lean, mean degree-granting machine that measures educational quality by the amount of money departments generate. Provost Brian Blake is crafting a plan that demands “returns on investment” from each and every program. And how is he defining those “returns”? In dollars and cents. The more students you teach, the better. The less you’re paid, the better. Either that, or the axe. 

This Friday (yes, October 23rd!), Provost Blake will meet with the Faculty Senate to share some of the specifics of his new plan, albeit presumably with few details, given this administration’s willful misunderstanding of “shared governance.” 

Here’s the gist: Provost Blake, we are told, is executing the vision of the GW Board of Trustees, and especially of Chairperson Grace “Cut-the-Fat” Speights. He’s using cheap traffic signals to sort every program and department into lanes. If a program is a moneymaker–measured by how many students are taught with the least expensive labor–green light! If a program is flush in one aspect but stagnant in another, yellow light! If a program’s return on investment is low on the balance sheet, red light and goodbye! This depressing metric seems to be Blake’s only vision for how to measure program success and failure. (Maybe they played “Red Light, Green Light” at the Disney Management Institute?)  

Let’s be clear, Provost Blake regards this strategy much differently than the vast majority of us. Blake has described his stint at GW as a mere interlude. “I know what I’ve achieved in five years here,” he said of his time as provost of Drexel University, in a 2019 interview for his high school’s alumni magazine. “And for the next five years I’m going to be basically waiting for the right presidency.” Five years. That’s the horizon of Blake’s interest in GW. He is not concerned with the long-term health and well-being of GW but with padding his resume until the right presidency comes along. Unlike him, most of us intend to remain at GW throughout our careers and hope to see the university thrive, not in terms of ROI but in terms of scholarly excellence, well-educated students, and a socially responsible community. 

If Blake’s shock doctrine horrifies you as much as it does us, make your voice heard, immediately. Cut and paste the following text into an email to Provost Blake (mbblake@gwu.edu) and any other university administrators or faculty senators you know:

I am outraged by the notion of evaluating university programs by the amount of money they generate. GW is not a corporation. It is a university. GW University’s success must be measured by the scholarly excellence of its faculty, the achievements and civic responsibility of its students, and the equity of its campus community.

“Oh, no!” you’re saying to yourself. “I’m so tired/stressed/overworked. I can’t think about this now.” Remember: It’s no accident Blake plans to quietly announce this overhaul of our university structure at midterm. Speights, LeBlanc, and Blake are hoping you aren’t paying attention to anything beyond grading and all the other work you have to do. But none of us can afford apathy or distraction right now. Under Blake’s new system, we would all be losers. We must get engaged, get upset, and get loud! 

In solidarity,
The GWU Faculty Association

Condescending much, Chair Speights?

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.



Dear colleagues,

Remember summer … barely? We know, it’s difficult with so much happening, and not happening, at GW and in the world. But slow down for a second and try to recall. Remember when, in the midst of a hiring freeze and staff layoffs, LeBlanc hired Heather Swain to be Vice President of Marketing and Communications? Remember, even before you knew about Swain’s abhorrent previous work, how you wondered, “Wait a minute. Aren’t we in the midst of a hiring freeze? Aren’t our colleagues being laid off right now?” Remember? We wondered, too, and we continue to wonder.

We wonder why the administration insists on cutting those with the lowest salaries while their own salaries remain astronomical.  We don’t know how much GW’s administrators make now, and they won’t tell us. But here’s what we do know, from FY 2019:
Thomas LeBlanc, President$1,451,969
Mark Diaz, Exec VP and CFO$650,788
Forrest Maltzman, Provost and Exec VP$671,872
Beth Nolan, Sr VP and General Counsel$746,751
Ann McCorvey, Acting Exec VP and Treasurer$579,414
Louis Katz, Former Exec VP and Treasurer$1,123,366
Donna Arbide, VP for Development & Alumni$644,106
Leo Chalupa, Former VP for Research$601,545
Loretta Early, CIO$383,067
Patrick Nero, Former Athletic Dir$1,565,601
Steven Knapp , Former President, Ex Officio$465,448
That’s just under 9 million dollars right there, for only 11 positions.

It’s not especially surprising that an administration that positions itself as the only group capable of making decisions for the university would choose to reward its members so lavishly.  President LeBlanc alone is one of the highest paid university presidents in the United States.  

We demand a better alternative: #ChopTheTop. Let’s have a thoroughgoing audit of the upper administration and its various appendages. Start at the top. How much money could the university save, and how much more productive and humane could it be, if we weren’t burdened with an overabundance of Vice Presidents and Vice Provosts with extraordinarily high salaries? 

Our colleagues in the Dean’s Offices are being called on by the central administration to “balance the budget.” We say:  Let’s not just balance the budget, let’s redress it: #ChopTheTop. Refuse to cut compensation or jobs in your schools and recommend instead that a significant number of the bloated salaries at the top of the administrative hierarchy be cut.

There’s more to #ChopTheTop than eliminating needless positions and reducing salaries. As numerous news outlets, including The Washington Post and the Chronicle of Higher Education have noted, GW is currently suffering, at best, a lack of leadership. We must remove theLeBlanc administration and demand a more democratic Board of Trustees in order to institute genuine shared governance structures and procedures.  This should begin with the selection of the next President by those who are the heart of this university: students, staff, and faculty.


In Solidarity,
The GWU Faculty Association

Let’s Cut the Real Bloat in the Budget

LeBlanc’s ‘Final Mitigation’ email, distributed to the GW community last week, is eerily similar to Trump’s ‘We’ve turned the COVID corner’ story. We all know that the COVID corner hasn’t been ‘turned;’ likewise, LeBlanc’s duplicitous and happy-sounding ‘final mitigation’ email covers up a troubling new development.

But the good news first.

In some ways the email affirms the power of collective resistance to the irresponsible and morally-challenged leadership of GW’s current administration. Budget projections are now more accurate; up to $20 million of University assets were approved to be used by the Board of Trustees; and the email affirms “we are no longer considering across-the-board faculty and staff salary reductions.” These are hard-fought wins, to be sure, but these are intermediate, not final, steps towards the GW we demand, a community based on respect, equity, and genuine shared governance. 

Now the bad news.

LeBlanc, probably knowing he no longer has the moral authority to lead this University, has  absolved himself of the responsibility to execute the $20 million ‘final mitigation’ needed to balance the budget. Instead, he has  handed that responsibility to the Deans. The Deans of GW are now responsible for cutting $20 million from their school budgets; and since their budgets are comprised mostly of compensation, the two primary options are 1) to fire more people; or 2) to make salary reductions. Cutting non-compensation costs will likely not be enough. 

Pushing the cuts to the Dean’s level prevents further use of the University-wide endowment and reserves that LeBlanc and the Board of Trustees have at their disposal. Pushing the cuts to the Dean’s level likely means more staff, faculty, and student disruption. Consequently, layoffs and/or furloughs are bound to continue and likely to harm those in positions of precarity more than the privileged.

Our fight, consequently, will continue as well.

This sustained diminishment of GW staff, students, and faculty must stop. We urge the Deans, as well as GW faculty, staff, and students to take these actions:

#ChoptheTop: Deans, look upward for your cuts. Refuse to cut compensation or jobs in your schools and recommend instead that a significant number of the bloated salaries at the top of the administrative hierarchy be removed;

#ThisIsNOTSharedGovernance: Deans are more accountable to faculty, so in some sense LeBlanc’s cowardice is enhancing ‘shared governance.’ However, handing off the problem of cuts is shirked governance, not shared governance.

#DontBlametheDeans: Faculty and staff, our Deans are being placed in an untenable position. We must hold them accountable, but the blame and shame properly goes to LeBlanc and his administration;

#SAPledge: Faculty and Staff can sign and forward to alumni the Student Association’s No Donate Pledge (with over 800 signatures so far) https://forms.gle/G6gkJEiwhDnnkcUA6.

#GWFacultySenateDOYOURJOB: This list is long, so bullet points here:

  • Get the damn technology to hold the Faculty Assembly IMMEDIATELY; 
  • Pass the resolution censuring LeBlanc IMMEDIATELY;
  • Continue to pressure the Board of Trustees with alternative budget scenarios to prevent the need for the $20 million cut–like drawing from GW’s $300 million line of credit or its endowment; 
  • Pressure the Board of Trustees to apply for the additional COVID funding that Congress is likely to pass soon, and use those funds for the budget shortfall; and
  • Investigate the ‘bloat at the top’ that costs GW millions. 

We need to support–and hold accountable–the Deans, who have been put in this position by an administration that continues to function as though GW were a corporation rather than a non-profit university. We must work together to continue to resist this demoralizing, dysfunctional, and disingenuous administration. Despite last week’s false ‘final mitigation’ email, the fight is not over. Stay the course; stay steadfast; and stay tuned.

*picture from Anjali G Sharma

GWUFA Supports SA Executive Order

The GWU Faculty Association is pleased to circulate the Student Association Executive Order calling on President LeBlanc to resign and demanding genuine shared governance at GW. 

As the Executive Order states, LeBlanc has exhausted the patience and good will of every faction of the GW community – faculty, staff, and students. So bad is the situation at GW that LeBlanc’s missteps are reported as the lead article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education.

We can no longer tolerate the LeBlanc administration’s unwarranted compensation cuts, layoffs, or unreliable, ever-changing financial projections. 

Just yesterday, GWUFA learned about a new round of layoffs in Communications, affecting about 60 staff members. These colleagues are now required to reapply for a pool of about 30 positions. The LeBlanc administration continues to fire GW staff despite the updated enrollment numbers that make it ever more clear that such measures are unnecessary. 

Stand with GW students, staff and faculty. Demand an end to LeBlanc’s disastrous vision for our university, heartless policies, authoritarianism, and funny money. Call on the Board of Trustees to fire LeBlanc and implement true shared governance at GW. 

It is time to reclaim our university. GW deserves better.

Executive Order

No Confidence in University President Thomas LeBlanc

* * * * *

To urge President LeBlanc’s removal and implement shared governance at every level.

EO-F20-01 [Content Warning: mention of sexual assault]

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and Bylaws of The George Washington University Student Association, it is hereby ordered: 

  1. President LeBlanc must resign or be removed from his position immediately.
  2. President LeBlanc’s replacement must be chosen democratically by a selection committee that includes student, faculty, and staff representatives. This precludes a “task force” or “committee” that ostensibly has input but no decision-making power. All stakeholders must be involved in the replacement process from the very beginning.
  3. The Board of Trustees should have shared governance with students, faculty, and staff. This must include at least one seat on the Board of Trustees for each population that has full voting and governing privileges. These seats must be included in Executive Sessions.
  4. The case for President LeBlanc’s removal and an overhaul of the University’s governance is clear:
    1. President LeBlanc has failed in the goals he was hired for – increasing fundraising to improve the financial position of the University. While the size of the endowment remains large enough to weather the pandemic, the rate of alumni giving back to the University has remained at a peer institution-low of less than 10%. The only other university among our peer institutions that had their endowment shrink in fiscal year 2019 was the University of Miami, where President LeBlanc was formerly the Provost. 
    2. President LeBlanc chose to hire Heather Swain during a “hiring freeze” and during a wave of layoffs, then offered no adequate explanation for why this decision was made when any reasonable person would have discovered her revolting background of covering up sexual assault for Larry Nassar.
    3. President LeBlanc has insisted on executing the “Strategic Plan” to cut enrollment and student financial aid. This will inevitably result in a student population that is higher-income and more white.
    4. In February 2020, President LeBlanc made a racist remark in a recorded conversation with two students, equating a majority agreement for divestment to killing all Black students.
    5. Up until days before some students began moving in, students, faculty, and staff were left in the dark about the University’s reopening plan, including many RAs who lost their housing three days before moving in. 
    6. The University has laid off hundreds of employees, including some with decades of service to the University community. Not only is it unforgivable to strip them of their health insurance in a pandemic, but the layoffs are unnecessary due to the University’s endowment and $300 million line of credit. Other institutions have avoided layoffs by increasing the payout from their endowments.
    7. The University has suspended contributions to retirement funds, which constitutes a cut in compensation that is, again, unnecessary, unaccountable, and uncaring.
    8. The University has consistently ignored calls by the Faculty Senate, Faculty Association, Staff Advocacy and Equity Coalition, Student Association, and a multitude of student organizations who have urged the administration to correct their mistakes, and offered feasible alternatives to all of the decisions the administration has taken.
    9. The Department of Sociology, Department of Political Science, Department of American Studies, Department of Geography, Department of History, Department of Romance, German, and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Chairs of Columbian College of Arts & Sciences, Chairs and Associate Deans of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and alumni and faculty of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program have all expressed a profound lack of confidence in the administration’s actions.
    10. A democratic replacement process for President LeBlanc and shared governance in the Board of Trustees will improve transparency and empower students, faculty, and staff to forge a more equitable University.

Hereby enacted on the 21st of September, 2020.


Howard Brookins III, President of the Student Association


Friday 9/11 @ 12


Meet us at Kogan Plaza to demand that GW do better! Wear a mask and be sure to social distance. Bring signs and wear GW colors! 

Can’t join us in person? No worries, join us virtually from wherever you are! 


Students, staff, and faculty have NO CONFIDENCE in the leadership of LeBlanc and the Board of Trustees. We are demanding the removal of LeBlanc as president of GW and for the BOT to be accountable to our community, or the whole lot has got to go!

GWUFA has been documenting the reasons GW should have no confidence in LeBlanc or the Board that hired him since before the pandemic. Even more reasons have piled up in the past month: 

  • The hiring of Heather Swain as VP of Marketing and Communications, who covered up sexual abuse of hundreds by serial predator Larry Nassar at MSU. After widespread protest, GWU announced the position would not move forward, but offered no explanation for this egregious ethical failing.
  • 100s of staff layoffs carried out inhumanely and with no clear plan as to how the University plans to continue the critical work our colleagues performed.
  • Implementing cuts to financial aid days before classes started causing students to scramble for additional funds.
  • Imperiling the University’s financial health by hiring top level administrators during a hiring freeze.
  • Waiting until August to announce that fall semester would be online and then promptly locking faculty out of their offices. 

Full connection information:

Topic: GW Deserves Better!

Time: Sep 11, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Passcode: 862937

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Building the University We Want

Inside the University We Have

On Monday more than four hundred people attended the meeting organized by the Faculty Association to discuss our ongoing responses to the disastrous and haphazard leadership of the LeBlanc administration. 

We had much to bemoan and much to celebrate. We have lost friends and necessary co-workers to unnecessary and destructive layoffs. Our president and the enablers with whom he surrounds himself are pulling the university that we have worked hard to build toward the edge of an abyss.  But we also celebrate an outpouring of activism and energy by students, staff, and faculty to pull GW back. We celebrate the student-led petition that kept Heather Swain from joining the leadership of GW (read more here). We celebrate the staff members who founded the GW Staff Advocacy and Equity Coalition, a sibling organization that, like GWUFA, will fight corruption with compassion and despotism with solidarity (read more here).  We celebrate the many independent protests by faculty members at GW, including powerful letters of protest by the Department Chairs, Program Heads and Directors of the Columbian College (here) and the Dean’s Council of the Elliott School (here).

There are three immediate action items that GWUFA is throwing into this mix, and we hope you will participate in them to the extent that you are willing and able. 

  1. Are you ready to get involved in one of GWUFA’s new committees? Then get in touch! Here is the information:
    • No-Confidence Committee.  Are you with the 91% of the polled faculty and staff at the August 20 all-faculty meeting who expressed support for a no-confidence vote in the LeBlanc administration? Are you unwilling to let a clause in the GW bylaws prohibiting a  vote of no confidence in the President silence you and your colleagues? A broad public statement by faculty, staff, students, and alumni can be as powerful as a formal resolution. If you would like to help make this happen then contact notmypresident@gwufa.org
    • Direct Action Committee.  Are you one of the many faculty who have called for walk-outs, slow-downs, public protests, and a thousand other creative acts of political expression? Make them happen by joining this committee. In fact, the committee is meeting at 3pm on Thursday! Contact directaction@gwufa.org .
    • Organizing Committee.  Our strength is our numbers. Right now roughly 30% of all full-time non-medical faculty at GW are members of the Faculty Association.  Imagine what we could do if the number were twice that? If you like what you see, then this is the committee for you. Contact organizing@gwufa.org.
  2. Please talk to at least three colleagues about GWUFA. Find out if they are friends and supporters of these efforts.  Find out whether they would support a vote of no confidence in GW’s President.  Find out if they are ready to engage in some form of direct action, like a protest, and how motivated they would be to do so. Ask if you can pass on their information to the Faculty Association and, if they say yes, use this form to do so.  
  3. Express your protest! We have created graphics that you can use to let your networks know what you are doing to protest this administration — for the good of your colleagues and for your own sense of personal dignity. We call them “GWUF.emes” (GWUFA + meme), and you can add them to your emails, circulate them on social media, and post them on your syllabi (we’ve sized them in two ways, for Twitter and for Word documents — in the latter case we’ve drawn up instructions on how to insert them as banners). They’re designed to mimic GW’s aesthetic, in the guise of a “COVID-19 Update.” Help us make them viral (so to speak).We’re offering 8 different versions, 3 of which are reproduced above as samples; all 8 are available on our website for download. Choose GWUF.emes that work with your style: some are more passionate and some more matter-of-fact — just like we are. But we’re eager for additional suggestions. Please feel free to request your own particular wording, too, and we’ll draw it up for you.

If you are as worried about the immediate future of GW under the LeBlanc administration as we are, if you are as determined to make shared governance a reality, then now is the time to act. And there are many, many actions to take. We have listed just a few.  Have your own ideas? Run with them, and then let us know so we can celebrate you on our website (without using your name if you prefer, of course)! 

In solidarity and the joy of collaborative struggle,
 The George Washington University Faculty Association