The Board of Trustees could announce whether they will rename the Marvin Center and the Colonials moniker and finalize the budget for the upcoming fiscal year at their open meeting Friday.
The Board’s committees have been meeting since early this month, but Friday’s open session with the full Board comes as the task forces studying the Marvin Center building name and Colonials moniker wrap up developing their recommendations. Friday’s meeting is the Board’s last scheduled open session before the conclusion of their routine review of University President Thomas LeBlanc.
The meeting also comes as officials prepare their fiscal year 2022 budget proposal – which has sparked disagreements with faculty over spending priorities – and as officials complete a blueprint of the campus master plan.
Here’s what to watch for on Friday:
Changes to the Marvin Center name or Colonials moniker
The Board developed a framework to consider requests to rename campus buildings and the Colonials moniker last June, and LeBlanc announced the development of two committees to study the Marvin Center and Colonials moniker the following month.
Since then, the committees have worked to study the historical materials about the two subjects to ultimately make naming recommendations, which could be forwarded to the Board a decision, which could be announced Friday.
LeBlanc said earlier this year he expected the naming task forces to finalize their recommendation this spring. Officials have since declined to comment on the committees’ work since until the Board’s eventual announcement.
“The ultimate decision on the recommendation will be made and announced by the Board of Trustees,” LeBlanc said in a January interview. “We’re not likely to be commenting along the way. This is a process that really culminates in a decision by the Board, and there’s not a lot to say in the middle of the process, but we obviously will keep the community posted on the progress of those committees.”
GW community members have also submitted six additional name change requests in the past year for buildings like Fulbright and Madison Halls. LeBlanc said in January that officials plan to move forward with considering additional requests after announcing decisions for both the Marvin Center and Colonials moniker.
The fiscal year 2022 budget
Faculty expressed concerns last month that the proposed budget for the upcoming year should allocate more money for research funding instead of setting aside money for a surplus, given delays to research opportunities during the pandemic. Higher education experts said an investment in a surplus could also benefit faculty research endeavors in the long run, and officials have said they view the upcoming fiscal year budget as a “transition year” toward normalcy.
“We understand there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the future that we have to consider in our planning, and we don’t expect to suddenly revert to pre-pandemic operations or pre-pandemic budgets,” LeBlanc said in an April interview.
Joseph Cordes, the chair of the Faculty Senate’s fiscal planning and budget committee and a professor of economics, said at this month’s senate meeting that officials have worked to make adjustments to the budget in recent weeks and that the Board will approve the budget soon.
Chief Financial Officer Mark Diaz said in April that officials planned to submit a proposal for the FY 2022 budget before the Board’s May meeting, when they typically approve the budget. The Board delayed their vote to pass the budget at last year’s May meeting amid financial uncertainty with the pandemic, later opting to give officials provisional budget authority once the fiscal year began.
He said Ellen Zane, the vice chair of the Board and the chair of the Board’s committee on finance and investments, will likely provide an update on “budget plans” at its meeting this Friday.
Trustees’ final open session before LeBlanc review ends
Faculty confidence in LeBlanc has been waning this year as tensions between the GW community and LeBlanc culminated in a survey of full-time faculty on University leadership conducted this winter. The faculty shared “overwhelmingly negative” views of University leadership – their top concern at GW – and a slim majority had lost confidence in LeBlanc.
The senate responded late last month by passing a resolution expressing “serious concerns” about University leaders’ abilities to advance GW’s mission and vision.
This spring, the Board has been working to conduct their standard review of the president in advance of a decision over whether or not they should renew his contract, and the meeting Friday will be their last planned open session before they make their decision. LeBlanc said last month that officials have shared the survey results with the outside consultant from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges who is working with the Board to conduct their review.
The Board has largely backed LeBlanc amid these tensions, but Friday’s meeting is the Board’s first open session after the Faculty Senate provided trustees with the survey results, aimed to collect faculty sentiment in advance of the Board’s review.
“Leading a dynamic, diverse University community with many differing and strong opinions is challenging in the best of times, and these have been among the most difficult, challenging times we have ever faced,” Board Chair Grace Speights said to LeBlanc at a meeting last October. “The Board of Trustees appreciates and supports the outstanding work you and your leadership team have done to navigate circumstances unlike any we have ever experienced before.”
Campus master planning
Cordes, the faculty senator, said at this month’s senate meeting that trustees will also review a blueprint of the campus master plan, as officials have been holding workshops with students to gather feedback on potential changes like adding a dining hall on the Foggy Bottom campus.
“That’s really looking at the blueprints for the plans, it’s not financial approval,” he said.
Cooper Robertson, the architecture and planning firm working with the University to develop the plan, held workshops with students in February 2020 to hear about campus features before proposing potential changes.