Students, faculty and alumni should sign the SA’s no-donate pledge

A flurry of statements, bad press and protests have escalated calls for University President Thomas LeBlanc’s resignation. And this week brought a new form of protest: a pledge from the Student Association president asking people not to donate to GW until LeBlanc is replaced.

The pledge is part of SA President Howard Brookins’ executive order calling for LeBlanc to leave his post. It implores students, faculty and alumni to withhold donations from GW until LeBlanc is ousted and “shared governance is implemented” among staff, faculty and the student body. Hundreds of people and groups – including The Hatchet Editorial Board – have been asking for LeBlanc to step down for months now. This pledge could be an even more effective way of actualizing those demands because it hits GW where it hurts – its wallet.

We could begin to make some headway in much-needed changes at the University if every member of the GW community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – sign the pledge. We must sign on to ensure new leadership and a greater voice at the top.

“Students very often do not have a say in the happenings of the University, but signing this pledge can change that. Students, alumni, staff and faculty must take advantage of the SA’s protest and join the pledge.”

These criticisms are getting old, but let’s rehash the series of missteps throughout LeBlanc’s three-year tenure at GW. LeBlanc lost the trust of students and faculty through his hiring of a string of former colleagues at the University of Miami, a racially insensitive comment, plans to cut enrollment while increasing funding to STEM programs at the cost of the humanities and recent layoffs and disdain for student activism. There is near-unanimity among the GW community that he should step aside – but even in the face of opposition, LeBlanc has refused to even answer questions about whether or not he will step down. This pledge goes beyond just words, which is a necessary step given LeBlanc’s refusal to hear what students are saying.

This pledge could have substantive effects – taking a financial angle is a key tactic of effective protest. Lack of donations can negatively impact GW’s rankings in U.S. News and World Report and The Wall Street Journal, which are tentpoles of the University’s prestige and pitch to prospective students. During a financially stressful time amid a pandemic, the University also cannot afford to lose donations. The prospect of further financial woes is a nightmare for administrators and could feasibly force them to accede to student demands for new leadership.

While protests and statements signed by dozens of student organizations and faculty did not sway LeBlanc and the Board of Trustees into considering new leadership, the prospect of reducing GW’s appeal to potential students would be a jolt – and rightly so. A pledge is a commitment to action, not just words on a page or people holding signs. A pledge to not donate to the University until things change demonstrates commitment and impacts the University where it matters most – its wallet. It won’t be effective unless students, faculty, staff and alumni sign on.

Aside from placing financial pressure on the University, this pledge is also beneficial to the SA. Brookins, the organization’s president, is demonstrating his message to the entire University community – and that carries a lot of weight. Not only was Brookins voted into office to represent all students at the University, but he is the only student member on the Board. And he decided to strike while the iron is hot – the Board is set to convene next week and Brookins has an opportunity to express students’ and faculty’s frustration toward GW leadership.

Students very often do not have a say in the happenings of the University, but signing this pledge can change that. Students, alumni, staff and faculty must take advantage of the SA’s protest and join the pledge.

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