Officials said they are “very closely” monitoring a recent executive order from President Donald Trump to end the use of diversity and inclusion training in federal agencies.
Caroline Laguerre-Brown, the vice provost for diversity, equity and community engagement, said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that she feels “very strongly” that the work of her office does not “run afoul” of the executive order. She said officials are not “making any plans” to pause GW’s diversity training but said GW is not currently part of a lawsuit to oppose the new rules.
“Our programming is always geared toward raising awareness, providing information, giving people strategies to operationalize the things that they care about, that they value here as an institution,” she said.
James Tielsch, a faculty senator and a professor of global health, said GW is “obviously” at risk in light of the executive order because the University has “lots” of federal grants and contracts.
“I hope our risk profile is not affected, but I think it’s important that a university like ours makes a statement about this,” he said. “And I don’t mean just a statement about this. I mean actively participate in opposing this kind of action, legally.”
Laguerre-Brown said officials are reviewing the materials from the University’s diversity and inclusion trainings to verify that none of it conflicts with the executive order.
“We’re just going to continue to monitor very closely and continue to do the work that we’re doing that we think the community wants us to do in the interim,” she said.
Laguerre-Brown said officials asked her to provide a report to the senate on GW’s diversity and inclusion resources to follow up on the resolution passed by the senate in July on diversity and inclusion, in addition to the “broader context” of the global movement for racial justice. She outlined anti-racist and anti-bias resources for faculty and described the bias incident reporting process and live unconscious bias trainings for faculty the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement offers.
“There’s been a lot of conversation on the campus and a lot of interest in some of the work that we do in the Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement,” she said.
Provost Brian Blake said he has been working with students, deans and faculty senators to make a decision about whether officials should implement the optional Pass/No Pass policy for undergraduate courses and Credit/No Credit policy for graduate courses this semester. He said he hopes to make a final decision “this coming week.”
Officials said earlier this month that the majority of undergraduate and graduate students support adopting pass/fail or Credit/No Credit policies this fall, and half of all undergraduates and a third of all graduate students took at least one class as pass/fail or Credit/No Credit. Officials said if the pass/fail policy were to be implemented this fall, the parameters of the option would need to change from its implementation last semester.
Senators also passed a resolution voicing “severe disapproval” for University President Thomas LeBlanc’s hiring of Heather Swain, who was involved in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case, by a 33-3 vote.
Officials also announced that the upcoming spring semester would be fully online. They said all undergraduate courses and “most” graduate programs will be conducted online this spring, with an extension of the 10 percent tuition reduction to undergraduate students who do not live on campus.
LeBlanc said officials have administered more than 17,000 COVID-19 tests and have received 29 positive cases so far this semester, which he said translates to a “very low” positivity rate.
He said about 3,000 students are living off campus in the District, and officials have expanded testing for those students if they are exposed to COVID-19 or develop symptoms. LeBlanc said the expansion provides officials with insight into the number of positive COVID-19 cases from off-campus students in addition to providing students with “quick” test results.
He said officials are increasing communications with the student body and the GW community about following public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19 and are sending reminders for students to get a flu shot this year.
“Especially as we head into colder weather and we’re spending more time indoors, we will be continuing to reinforce these messages, especially with our on campus community, and we’ll be paying attention to adherence to all of our health protocols,” he said.
GW Police Department Chief James Tate said in a presentation at the meeting that he plans to release the department’s first-ever racial profiling report March 21 and start limiting officers’ presence in low-crime areas to hold officers accountable and ensure campus remains a safe place for the GW community.
“We are public servants,” Tate said. “We are not warriors. And what I mean by that is, for some, if they were ever in this mindset that it’s us against them, that has to go. That’s not what we’re about. We’re here to serve our public, we’re here to keep everyone safe and most importantly, we’re here to make sure we are a resource for our students, staff and faculty.”
Senators also confirmed 10 representatives from the Student Association to various senate committees by unanimous consent.