Faculty Senate to discuss HVAC updates, shared governance at Friday meeting

Media Credit: File Photo by Jack Fonseca | Senior Staff Photographer

The shared governance report comes after Board Chair Grace Speights said in an email to faculty earlier this year that she was troubled by some who did more to "foment discord" than contribute to civil conversation.

Updated: Sept. 9, 2021 at 3:33 p.m.

Faculty senators are set to discuss a report on shared governance and transparency behind the University’s updates on GW’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems this Friday in their first in-person meeting since March of 2020.

The meeting comes after a summer filled with administrative news – like the announcement that University President Thomas LeBlanc would be stepping down – and an evacuation of nearly 200 students from Townhouse Row one week into the fall semester because of building conditions that were conducive to “biological growth.”

Here’s what you can expect to hear about on Friday, based on the meeting’s agenda and what we know so far:

HVAC upgrades and transparency
A group of faculty senators introduced a resolution last week expressing concerns about the timeline for the University’s HVAC system upgrades – which officials said would be completed by the end of this week. Throughout the past year, officials have worked on HVAC renovations to align buildings with reopening guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers, but senators said officials used “misinformation” in a statement earlier this summer outlining officials’ progress on the updates.

The statement issued in June indicated that officials completed HVAC upgrades, but officials issued a second update last month, stating that officials failed to provide enough context about the renovations, still a “work in progress.”

The senate’s proposed resolution calls for officials to release to the senate ​​all “reports, recommendations, and technical analyses” relevant to campus buildings’ alignment with CDC and ASHRAE guidelines, and it urges the University to provide a list of campus buildings with their corresponding level of alignment with official guidelines to the GW community.

The resolution also discourages officials from marking the reports as confidential in the interest of transparency, and it recommends they “comprehensively describe” all of their actions to align campus buildings with CDC and ASHRAE guidelines.

Shared governance report
The senate also included a “report on shared governance” as an agenda item, outlining instances in which shared governance between faculty and administrators at GW was successful and unsuccessful alongside suggestions on how to improve it.

Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights sent an email to faculty in May, saying she had been “troubled” by some professors whose contributions have done more to “foment discord” than contribute to civil dialogue after LeBlanc announced that he would step down at the end of this academic year. Speights said the Board would begin a review of the Faculty Code to assess “appropriate avenues” for input from the faculty given these concerns.

“Successful shared governance relies on constructive engagement – something I believe has been lacking over the past year,” she said in the email. “I am troubled by the actions of a faction of self-appointed faculty spokespersons whose contributions to this process more closely resemble a campaign to foment discord rather than civil dialogue.”

Presidential search
Officials have been quiet on their progress in the search process for a president to replace LeBlanc, but faculty have been working to develop a consultative committee of professors who will represent faculty input throughout the search. Members of the committee may be elected to serve on the Board’s presidential search committee.

Senators voted on a resolution at their August meeting to expand the consultative committee to increase diversity within the group in areas like rank, discipline, gender and race. They said the senate’s executive committee would try to finalize a list of professors that senators would propose to serve on the consultative committee by Aug. 27.

Each of the University’s nine schools elected a professor to serve on the consultative committee, and the senate’s executive committee appointed eight additional members to broaden the slate’s diversity, according to an email sent to faculty in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Tuesday and obtained by The Hatchet.

The email states the committee is composed of three CCAS professors, two professors each from the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the School of Nursing and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, and one faculty member each from the School of Business, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, GW Law and the College of Professional Studies. In total, 17 professors currently make up the slate.

The Faculty Assembly will approve the slate of committee members at a special Faculty Assembly meeting scheduled for Sept. 17, the email states.

This post was updated to reflect the following:
This story was updated to include information about the formation of the consultative committee.

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