CCAS chairs, directors demand officials tap endowment, reserve before layoffs

Faculty in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences published an open letter to officials Tuesday listing seven demands to prevent layoffs and salary reductions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The faculty are asking the University to draw on its endowment, reserves and loan funds before “taking more drastic approaches,” like layoffs, furloughs and salary reductions. The letter comes after dozens of GW employees from facilities, career services and information technology were notified of layoffs to help close GW’s $220 million annual budget gap.

“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,” the letter states. “These actions lead us to conclude that we cannot continue with any sense of confidence in the decisions by you and your leadership team.”

The letter – signed by CCAS department chairs, program heads and directors – is addressed to University President Thomas LeBlanc, Provost Brian Blake, CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Office Mark Diaz and Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights.

LeBlanc did not immediately return a request for comment through a University spokeswoman. Officials have declined to publicly share the specifics of the ongoing layoffs, and they vowed at a Faculty Senate meeting in May not to use GW’s $1.78 billion endowment to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic.

The letter also urges faculty and staff to reject salary cuts while administrators have taken “voluntary cuts” to offset the financial toll of the pandemic. The faculty added that should salary reductions become necessary, officials should use a “progressive model” so workers with relatively lower salaries take a less significant cut.  

“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,” the letter states.

The faculty also asked administrators to revisit the University’s human resource policies to ensure employees are “treated with dignity and respect.”

The final demand presses officials to re-evaluate the “scope” of Thurston Hall renovations, which began May 1 and consider pausing renovations until GW can renegotiate an extension of the permit agreement. Officials said renovations will proceed as originally planned because the University has already borrowed the $80 million needed for the project.

“Delaying further work on Thurston Hall until the spring or summer will reduce significantly the draw down on our liquidity,” faculty wrote in the letter.

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