Date: August 18, 2020
To: Thomas LeBlanc, President
Cc: Grace E. Speights, Chair, GW Board of Trustees
Brian Blake, Provost
Mark Diaz, Executive Vice President & Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer
Paul Wahlbeck, Dean, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
From: CCAS Department Chairs, Program Heads and Directors
Re: Financial Mitigation Efforts, including Layoffs and Salary Cuts
We, the department chairs, program heads and directors of CCAS, write this letter to demand transparency and voice in the university administration’s decisions to lay off staff, temporarily suspend retirement benefits, and reduce salaries. We are deeply concerned that the senior university administration makes decisions without faculty and staff consultation. We are equally disturbed by the manner in which faculty and staff have been laid off; by the adverse impact on our students’ learning experience that such layoffs will have; and by the disproportionate impact of layoffs on GWU employees of color. These actions lead us to conclude that we cannot continue with any sense of confidence in the decisions by you and your leadership team.
Below are our strong recommendations, most of which we share with the FSEC and Senate committee chairs, as expressed in the August 3rd letter to President LeBlanc from the FSEC.
1. We strongly believe that the mitigation measures put forth by the FSEC should be taken before any additional measures that reduce compensation for faculty or staff and before any further reduction of retirement benefits.
2. We support increasing the payout from the university’s endowment and tapping our reserve funds to help us weather this storm prior to moving forward with any additional layoffs, furloughs, or salary reductions.
3. The university has received a $300 million loan from the recently approved line of credit. These additional funds should be used before taking more drastic approaches that include additional layoffs, furloughs, or salary reductions.
4. We strongly urge the administration to revisit its own HR procedures to ensure our colleagues are treated with dignity and compassion. The re-hiring of laid off staff violates GW’s current stated policy: “Positions that have been eliminated may not be reinstated for 12 months” as noted at https://hr.gwu.edu/terminations. While the administration may claim they have not violated this policy, some of the recent moves appear to be a distinction without a difference.
5. Faculty and staff should not accept salary cuts while the university leadership have taken only “voluntary” pay cuts. If the pay cuts by the leadership are not voluntary but mandatory, this should be stated openly so as not to mislead the GW community. We also would like an assurance that senior administration officials are not continuing to receive bonuses and deferred compensation.
6. We request that salary reductions, should they become necessary, follow a progressive model so that those who have lower salaries will have their pay reduced at a lower rate. Without implementing such a model, salary reductions will hurt those in our community who are living from paycheck to paycheck, in particular junior faculty members and employees of color. We demand that the salaries be reinstated as soon as enrollment goals are met; this goal should also take into account your original plan, which reduced GW enrollments by 20%.
7. The scope of the renovation of Thurston Hall should be seriously re-evaluated. We agree with the FSEC that the Thurston Hall renovations should be paused “until a genuine effort is made to renegotiate an extension of the permit agreement…. Delaying further work on Thurston Hall until the spring or summer will reduce significantly the draw down on our liquidity.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, GW faculty and staff have demonstrated remarkable commitment and solidarity. With the indispensable help of staff, faculty have dedicated much time and energy to the development and delivery of their online courses, even as schools closed, childcare responsibilities increased, and, in some cases, the burden of caring for sick family members arose. Every single faculty and staff member has gone above and beyond to support student learning, create virtual graduation events, and continue operations as normally as possible, despite the unprecedented circumstances. This labor has continued into the summer, despite many of our nine-month contracts. At every step of this rapidly changing situation, GW faculty and staff have stepped up to the challenge with agility, generosity, and dedication.
It is important to have open lines of communication during these difficult times and for the leadership to engage with faculty and staff. We expect that the University leadership will consult with the faculty and staff rather than only informing us about decisions after they are made. Now is the time for exemplary leadership that thoughtfully and responsibly steers the ship to bring faculty and staff together.