Updated: Oct. 1, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
The Student Association Senate passed a resolution calling for University President Thomas LeBlanc’s “immediate” resignation at a special meeting Wednesday.
The resolution, which passed 26-2-0, presses officials to choose a replacement for LeBlanc through a committee of students, faculty and staff. Senators cited more than 20 instances that pushed them to demand LeBlanc’s resignation, including the hiring of Heather Swain, plans to cut undergraduate enrollment and LeBlanc’s use of a racially insensitive remark.
The legislation includes endorsements from more than 35 organizations, like the Faculty Association and GW College Democrats, which have made their own calls for LeBlanc to step down in recent months.
SA President Howard Brookins was the latest student leader to ask for LeBlanc’s resignation in an executive order last week, sparking criticism from senators who said they should have been looped in on the order.
SA Sen. Gabriel Young, CCAS-U and a sponsor of the legislation, said students have felt “humiliated, ashamed and disappointed” in GW, and a lack of support for staff and faculty amid ongoing layoffs prompted the senate to draft the legislation.
“Now this begs the question: why are students so unhappy?” Young said. “Students – those who engage in academic activities are mostly involved in academia as that’s their stakeholder position. Those who engage with students are faculty, in other words, faculty are now unhappy and are influencing students.”
Senators also passed a resolution rejecting a part of Brookins’ executive order that asks for staff, faculty and students to cut off donations to GW. Senators requested that Brookins release another executive order that specifies members of the GW community should cease donations to the President’s Fund for Excellence – finances under the discretion of the GW president – until LeBlanc is no longer in office.
SA Sen. Thomas Falcigno, CPS-G and a sponsor of the resolution, said funds that are donated to GW go toward areas like scholarships, the GW Cares Fund and campus food pantries. He said the language of the order should be changed because Brookins’ original no-donation pledge would take money away from students, not LeBlanc or other top officials.
“A blanket ‘no-donation pledge’ does not hurt the University’s wallet – it hurts students,” he said. “When members of the GW community donate, they aren’t giving the University a blank check.”
Brookins said he spoke with many student organization leaders and students who all expressed “intense disapproval” of LeBlanc, but the Board of Trustees ultimately has the power to oust LeBlanc. He said University finances are a top priority for the Board, and though the pledge could potentially impact student resources, the pledge would ultimately pressure trustees to act.
“Of course, public pressure through this legislation, the media and general student organization is essential, but the only way we can level the playing field and change the governance of the school is by demonstrating that students, staff and faculty are the lifeblood of this University,” Brookins said.
Senators also heard from seven candidates to fill vacancies in the School of Nursing, School of Engineering and Applied Science and Milken Institute School of Public Health.
The senate also approved Antonio Navarello to represent the School of Nursing, Megan Freeman as the representative for the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and Mustafa Emin Oktay as a representative for the engineering school. Caroline Fuss and Connor Hounshell were also voted in as Milken representatives.
David Brothers contributed reporting.
This post was updated to correct the following:
A previous version of the article stated one senator abstained from voting on a resolution calling for LeBlanc’s resignation. Two senators abstained.