Op-ed: Faculty Senate must censure LeBlanc at meeting Friday

This piece was written by a group of professors – Dwayne Wright, a visiting assistant professor of higher education; Julia Storberg-Walker, an associate professor of human and organizational learning; Gregory Squires, a professor of sociology and public policy and public administration; Dan Moshenberg, a Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies associate professor of English; Christopher Britt, an associate professor of Spanish; Ivy Ken, an associate professor of sociology; Laura Schiavo, an associate professor of museum studies and a member of the Faculty Association’s steering committee; Kathryn Kleppinger, an associate professor of French studies and international affairs; Erin Chapman, an associate professor of history; Neal Chalofsky, an associate professor emeritus of human and organizational learning; and Brian Casemore, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

As professors of GW, we urge the Faculty Senate to approve a resolution Friday censuring University President Thomas LeBlanc for hiring Heather Swain.

This resolution was first on the senate’s agenda last month. At that time, senators decided to recommit the resolution committee for further investigation of what many of us already knew. The committee did as instructed and has now returned a month later with a continued recommendation of censure. We urge that the time for delay and obstruction in holding leadership accountable for this failure is well overdue.

Across the University, departments, programs, the Student Association, the GW Staff Advocacy and Equity Coalition, the Faculty Association and independent faculty leaders have taken a consistent and sustained position opposing LeBlanc’s leadership. All are calling for a repair in the moral fabric of our University and calling out GW’s president for what the senate calls “violating the core principles of The George Washington University.”

Hundreds of signatures on open petitions affirm staff, faculty and student concerns. Articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Washington Post, The Hatchet and other media have illustrated the profound lack of confidence in GW’s administration.

“Is this who we are as a University? A place in which employees are discarded, faculty are regulated and students concerns are dismissed as if they are kindergarteners?”

It is our hope that the senate will not follow the lead of certain members of the Board of Trustees, who last week lauded LeBlanc’s leadership and then took the unprecedented step of publicly admonishing the SA president. It is beyond ironic and indeed perhaps “incomprehensible” that the Board is seemingly willing to hold the elected student body president to a higher standard than the president they selected and continue to support.

In fact, Board Chair Grace Speights was effervescent in her praise of LeBlanc’s “strong” leadership and “outstanding work,” placing all blame of “divisiveness” on recent SA actions. Contrary to this interpretation, we suggest that the divisiveness began long ago, when LeBlanc’s administration, with full support of trustees, began dismantling shared governance, corporatizing the University, freely talking about shooting Black students and recklessly hiring someone credibly accused of covering up the rape of college athletes.

Now, the divisiveness continues as the Board turns a deaf ear to student, staff and faculty concerns and presents their full endorsement of LeBlanc.

We are further concerned about clear inequities at the highest levels of the University. We find it disturbing to note that when LeBlanc has made numerous, admitted  “leadership errors,”  he was not publicly admonished. Instead, he was afforded the privilege of a private conversation with the Board chair as part of the “remedy.” But when the SA president was accused of a leadership mistake, he gets no such privilege. Instead, he is publicly called out by the Board chair in a meeting with journalists present as if his voice neither matters nor is relevant. This contrast is as stunning as it is disturbing. Is this who we are as a University? A place in which employees are discarded, faculty are regulated and students concerns are dismissed as if they are kindergarteners? All the while, we are told to disbelieve what we are currently experiencing and instead follow edicts that came down from unexplained and unquestioned autocratic decisions masquerading as “strong leadership.”

Do not turn a deaf ear to the GW community’s powerful voice. Do not devalue any of the diverse voices within the University. Pass the censure resolution this Friday to help GW start to repair and restore our vibrant, diverse and creative community.

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