Sacrifice Property, Not People

We in the Faculty Association are awed and galvanized by the honor and courage of GW’s Council of Librarians in declaring their prioritization of people—their coworkers—over the material resources they oversee. Especially in this unprecedented moment of instability and fear, this principle must guide the university as a whole. 

 Like the Council of Librarians, we assert that GW’s people matter more to the university than its real estate holdings, the million-dollar to half-million-dollar salaries it awards its overpaid administrators, or the performance of its endowment investments. Now more than ever, the university needs the expertise, dedication, institutional knowledge, and experience of our existing faculty and staff members. The loss of staff and faculty would further devastate our morale, stymie our scholarly and pedagogical innovation, and impoverish the community that is this institution. 

 As experts in our fields and experienced workers, faculty and staff members are prepared to develop new, ethical solutions in the face of the pandemic and resultant financial uncertainty. Already, the Faculty Senate has proposed a viable, responsible series of budget cuts that avoids the devastation of layoffs and furloughs and highlights bloated administrative salaries, bonuses and perks. Every staff and faculty position is necessary to the academic mission of the university. In contrast, layoffs of staff and faculty, in addition to putting people’s livelihoods and health at risk—a set of risks that would reverberate across the economy and wellbeing of the Washington, DC area—would impede our effectiveness in teaching and research for years to come. 

 Rather than resort to layoffs, furloughs, cuts to student financial aid, the rescission of employment benefits and retirement contributions, or even to the elimination of entire departments and programs, the university administration must work openly and democratically, according to the principles of shared governance, with the faculty and staff to develop an innovative path to financial stability. Furthermore, we must not allow the Board of Trustees or the university administration to use this financial situation to clandestinely build the attenuated institution the LeBlanc administration has advocated. The university must utilize its $300 million line of credit, its endowment, and its cash reserves to protect the university’s most valuable resource: its people. We must preserve the skills and wisdom we have developed collectively and collaboratively over many years. We cannot save the university by destroying it.

Council of Librarians:
COVID-19 Budget Resolution
Drafted by the Council Executive Committee: May 7, 2020
Submitted as amended for a full Council vote: May 21, 2020
Resolution adopted: May 27, 2020

Whereas the Council of Librarians has shared interests in and responsibilities for collection development, and whereas we wish to safeguard the future of LAI as an essential resource within the University, the Council of Librarians recommends that, should the University require FY21 LAI budget reductions, we prioritize collections cuts over staff furloughs or layoffs.

We believe in the primary and vital importance of staff to the continued success of the University. This is especially important given the constraints under which LAI is already operating as a result of layoffs in 2015 and 2016 and subsequent vacancies that the current hiring freeze has prevented us from filling.

Journals, books, and databases that we do not acquire this year will likely be available for acquisition next year or the year after. As engaged professionals, Council Librarians are prepared to develop resourceful, innovative solutions in the face of financial uncertainty. Cuts to LAI staff, in addition to putting people’s livelihoods and health at risk, leave gaps in organizational knowledge and capacity that will impede our effectiveness in supporting teaching and research for years to come. Every position across the entirety of LAI, not just in the Council of Librarians, is invaluable to LAI’s on-going work and the academic mission and values of the University.

In these unprecedented times we believe that it is important to affirm that people matter more to the success of a library than its collections. The loss of staff within LAI will further devastate morale and stymie innovation within the organization. Now more than ever, the University needs the expertise, dedication, leadership, and capacity for care at which LAI staff excel. Therefore, in accordance with the roles and responsibilities of librarians as outlined in Section X of the Council of Librarians Code, we urge that if necessary, and with due consideration given to the constraints of the university’s fiduciary obligations, FY 2021 collections funds be repurposed in order to protect LAI’s most important resource: its people.

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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