In his May 31st message on the Black Lives Matter protests, President LeBlanc assured the university community that he looks forward to “working together—harnessing the power of the community that comprises this great institution—to address racism and injustice on our campus and in our society.” We charge LeBlanc and the GW Board of Trustees to put their where their is. The three issues listed below are some of the most pressing problems people of color at GW currently face. The administration could demonstrate that its commitment to addressing racism is more than just words by acting on all three of them.
- The GW Black Student Union has issued an open letter to the GW Police Department repudiating The Hatchet’s call for armed police on the campus police force and demanding a series of reasonable policy changes to prevent police harassment and violence against Black GW students.
- The budget cuts the university is implementing include severe cuts to financial aid and to the number of Pell grants GW will undertake. These financial aid cuts will necessarily disproportionately impact students of color, resulting in more financial hardship for such students and a less racially and economically diverse student body at our university.
- The pandemic disproportionately impacts Black communities and other communities of color throughout the United States, magnifying existing disparities in health, employment, and precarity that result from ongoing racial and economic oppression. This disproportionate impact means that GW students, faculty, and staff of color are more likely than their white peers to be exposed to COVID-19; more likely to be infected with the virus; more likely to have close relatives and friends who are exposed and infected; more likely to be needed as caregivers for infected relatives; less likely to have access to healthcare necessary to treat and recover from the virus; less likely to have access to the technology and services necessary to continue interaction with peers and colleagues or to maintain work productivity in the midst of the pandemic and the related stay-at-home orders.
In short, students, faculty, and staff of color are laboring under extraordinary pressures in addition to the ongoing stressors of long-standing white supremacy.
The GWU Faculty Association calls on the university administration to undertake concrete efforts to offset these pressures. The Faculty Association endorses the BSU’s demands of the GW Police Department. Faculty and staff of color have also experienced police harassment at GW and demand the GWPD change its approach to policing. GW must reorganize the GWPD as the BSU demands.
Furthermore, the Faculty Association has documented in several recent missives the absence of a true financial crisis at GW. (Let us say that again: analysis of the budget reveals that there is NO FINANCIAL CRISIS at GW.) Just as it is unnecessary for the university to implement faculty and staff layoffs and furloughs to mitigate any supposed crisis, it is unconscionable that the university would use the current pandemic as cover for the reduction of financial aid that amounts to a disinvestment in racial and economic diversity in the student body.
GW must not use the pandemic as an excuse to get richer and whiter. Our university must instead work to support and mitigate the true crisis of health and resources that is plaguing its Black students, faculty and staff. The university has pledged to disburse directly to students all of the ~$9 million in CARES funds it has received. These funds should allow the university to provide more financial aid to students, not less, and we believe GW should lead the way in shifting financial aid dollars to more need-based aid during this unprecedented moment. The administration must stop using a manufactured university financial crisis to frighten the GW community into compliance with unnecessary austerity measures. We will not sacrifice the wellbeing, security, and safety of our friends, colleagues and students to LeBlanc’s Disney-fied vision of our university.
The GWUFA Steering Committee