Updated: April 2, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.
The Faculty Association sent a petition calling for University President Thomas LeBlanc’s resignation to administrators Wednesday.
Andrew Zimmerman, the acting president of the association, said the group’s leaders sent the petition, which has received nearly 300 signatures since its release in late February, to LeBlanc and Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights. The petition cites the 20/30 Plan – which will grow GW’s STEM proportion by 30 percent and cut overall enrollment by 20 percent – and LeBlanc’s “racist remarks” in February as reasons for his resignation.
“We release this petition to proclaim our commitment to our values as a University, a commitment that is, if anything, even more urgent in this time of turmoil,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.
The statement adds that “crisis management” amid the COVID-19 pandemic should not distract GW from ongoing tensions between officials and faculty. Faculty have requested that administrators explain the rationale behind officials’ decision to cut enrollment and pushed administrators to allow professors a voice in the next strategic plan.
“The crisis presented by the global spread of coronavirus, and the subsequent transition toward online educational continuity, should not detract attention from the institutional crisis that President LeBlanc has been creating since his arrival on campus in 2017.”
Group members said 122 faculty members and an additional 174 GW community members – including students, alumni and staff – have signed the petition in about a month. The association kept the names of students, alumni and staff signatories confidential but included the names of 70 faculty who have signed.
“Precisely now, precisely in this time of crisis, we must uphold our commitment to diversity, inclusion, democracy and shared governance, as these values define the community of students, staff and faculty at GW,” the statement reads. “In concert with these values, we call on President LeBlanc to resign.”
Speights, the chair of the Board of Trustees, said in response to the petition that the Board has “full confidence” in LeBlanc as the “right leader at the right time” for the University.
“The true test of a leader is how one responds to a major crisis especially in changing times,” she said in an email. “President LeBlanc, and his team, have done a remarkable job leading the University as we face the COVID-19 challenge, protecting the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff and bringing our community together.”
Speights added that LeBlanc and the Board have listened to concerns about the strategic plan and are “fully committed” to working closely with members of the GW community on the “critical decisions that affect our future and the well-being of the University as we approach our 200th year.”
“The Board of Trustees stands behind him, as does the majority of our community as he leads our efforts to weather the COVID-19 storm and emerge stronger than ever,” she said.