Faculty Senate urges officials to rely on furloughs and layoffs as ‘last resort’

Media Credit: Lillian Bautista | Senior Photo Editor

Murli Gupta, the chair of the committee on appointments, salary and promotion policies, said faculty must be consulted as officials make decisions regarding the budget for the fall semester.

The Faculty Senate called on officials Wednesday to use furloughs and layoffs as a last resort to mitigate the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on GW.

The resolution passed in a special meeting emphasizes the need for transparency and consultation with relevant senate committees as officials decide the status of the fall semester. Senators also passed resolutions to give the body’s executive committee the power to call regular senate meetings outside of the traditional monthly meetings and urge officials to approve new hires for GW Libraries in advance of the upcoming fall semester.

Murli Gupta, the chair of the committee on appointments, salary and promotion policies, said faculty must be consulted as officials make decisions regarding the budget for the fall semester.

“Any salary, personnel or benefit-related change including furlough or layoffs, if that is our last resort item, should be based exclusively upon the long-term education and research missions of the University,” he said. “Again we ask for consultation with the Faculty Senate, executive committee, Faculty Senate committees and Benefits Advisory Committee.”

Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights said in an interview prior to the meeting that officials will be looking “across the board” at the University to determine where cost-cutting measures will be employed.

“I can’t say that layoffs will be a last resort,” she said.

The resolution states that if salary or benefit reductions become necessary, they must be used for a “specified limited time” after officials consult with the relevant senate committees.

The senate approved an amendment to the resolution that Mary Jean Schumann, a faculty senator and associate professor of nursing, proposed to emphasize that the deans of each school should provide their perspective on the “unique needs” each school has during the decision-making process for the fall semester.

The senate also approved an amendment that Jamie Cohen-Cole, an associate professor of American studies, proposed to specify that any personnel changes should first be made in areas outside the University’s core missions of research, education and service.

Senators also passed a resolution calling on officials to “immediately” approve “expert” librarian hirings for GW Libraries by a 21 to 6 vote with one abstention.

Harald Griesshammer, an associate professor of physics and the chair of the committee on libraries, said at the senate’s regular meeting earlier this month that “strategic investments” are needed to ensure that faculty have the resources necessary for any future online instruction.

“We need those people in place pretty much yesterday, because we faculty need to prepare for fall teaching in a hybrid or online mode, pretty much starting now,” he said at the May 8 meeting.

The third resolution enables the senate’s executive committee to call additional senate meetings during the summer given the “urgent circumstances” that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. University President Thomas LeBlanc called Wednesday’s special meeting in addition to the regularly scheduled meeting earlier this month to discuss future academic and financial planning.

Provost Brian Blake said faculty are working to make courses “more flexible” to adapt to potential health restrictions, and officials will likely take at least one residence hall offline to provide beds for quarantined students.

He added that he is meeting with the deans of the schools this week to discuss long-term strategies to reduce expenses in light of the pandemic.

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