Updated: Feb. 6, 2020 at 3:28 p.m.
The Progressive Student Union is calling for University President Thomas LeBlanc’s resignation after a video of him making a racial analogy when discussing fossil fuel divestment surfaced Saturday.
LeBlanc apologized Sunday for using an “insensitive” comparison during a conversation with a member of Sunrise GW, a student organization that advocates for fossil fuel divestment, over the weekend about the University’s divestment policies. PSU wrote that the video exemplified LeBlanc’s continuous “failed leadership, disrespect of communities of color and disregard for the future of our world” in a statement published on Facebook Wednesday.
“In his short time as president of GW, LeBlanc has greatly harmed students, workers and the University as a whole,” the statement reads. “It is time for him to resign and a successor to be chosen by a democratically selected council of students, faculty and workers.”
Sunrise GW protested Tuesday morning at the 10-year anniversary event of the Regulatory Studies Center, which has been criticized for taking donations from ExxonMobil and the Charles Koch Foundation. The group delivered a letter addressed to LeBlanc Wednesday calling on him to divest GW’s investments from the fossil fuel industry and to cut ties with the center.
“PSU stands with the coalition calling for divestment from fossil fuels and the abolition and/or transparency of the RSC,” the statement reads.
The group claimed that LeBlanc’s strategic initiatives lend themselves to transforming the University into a “knock-off” Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
LeBlanc established five strategic initiatives – student experience, research, philanthropy and constituent engagement, medical enterprise and institutional culture – and he is separately planning to increase the proportion of STEM students from 19 percent to 30 percent while reducing undergraduate enrollment in a by nearly 20 percent over five years.
The group wrote in the statement that LeBlanc’s comments were “incredibly harmful” to students and workers of color and create a “hostile” campus environment.
“In this time where minority students and workers feel further marginalized on an already oppressive campus, PSU wants to emphatically reinforce our solidarity with communities of color on campus and our commitment to abolish all forms of oppression,” the committee states.
Several videos appear to show a GWPD officer pushing a student protester down the stairs of the F Street townhouse during the Sunrise GW letter delivery, which PSU member Emily Harding said is an example of LeBlanc’s “failed leadership.”
“Every day there is another thing to add to the ever expanding list of harm caused by LeBlanc’s presidency of this University, which manifests in the daily lives of students, faculty and workers,” Harding said. “LeBlanc must resign now.”
This story has been updated to reflect the following:
This post has been updated to include a quote from PSU member Emily Harding.