Thirteen former Mount Vernon College professors recently filed a lawsuit against GW. The tenure or tenure-track professors claim that the University violated their contracts by letting them go, when MVC was dissolved as an independent college last May.
When GW formed an affiliation with the financially struggling institution in 1996, President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said he wanted to make MVC a great women’s college. Terminating the contracts of 13 full-time professors does not help achieve that goal.
Grae Baxter, executive dean of the Mount Vernon campus, claims that GW was under no legal responsibility to honor the contracts of the MVC professors. The University’s actions may meet a legal standard, but GW should strive to meet an ethical standard – upholding its promises.
The MVC professors – who make up a significant part of the essence of the women’s campus – were given the option of applying for one-year assistant professor positions when they were told they would be let go at the end of the 1998-99 school year. Although some professors are currently employed elsewhere, they want their positions back.
Whether GW has a solid legal case is not the point. When GW took over MVC, pledging to make it an excellent learning environment for women, certain obligations were inherent in that pledge. By disregarding the professional status of the 13 professors involved in the lawsuit, the University is chipping away at part of the core of MVC – the faculty.
The University should show its priorities through its actions instead of making empty promises about the future of MVC. GW should fulfill its commitment to MVC and return the 13 former professors to their earned positions.