Wrighton makes first appearance at Board of Trustees meeting

Media Credit: Eva Devizia | Photographer

Wrighton had previously attended the Board’s executive committee meeting, but Friday marked his first appearance at a public Board meeting.

Interim University President Mark Wrighton delivered remarks at his first Board of Trustees open meeting Friday, recapping his first impressions of the GW community and meetings with students, faculty and staff.

The Board meeting came as trustees, faculty and administrators have been working to improve shared governance at GW in advance of the search for a permanent University president. Wrighton said he has spent his first few weeks in office attending events like town hall meetings to improve shared governance at the University and joining Black Heritage Celebration events.

“I’m looking forward to continuing a great tradition of community engagement that will serve us well as we look ahead,” Wrighton said at the meeting.

Wrighton said in an interview that officials appear to be on track with plans to finalize a set of recommendations to improve shared governance at the University, which the Board will consider in May.

“Chair Speights gave a preamble prior to announcing me and indicated two things – that shared governance would be dealt with and near the end of the semester, a search for a more permanent president would be undertaken,” Wrighton said in the interview. “And as far as I know, we are still on that path. It takes some time to execute a process to identify a new president.”

Wrighton said trustees are “aware” of recent incidents in which a professor in the School of Business incorrectly told a student she couldn’t have her service dog in her classroom and a white GWTeach professor said the N-word in a class on anti-racism. Wrighton declined to comment on what action officials would take against the professors despite students’ calls for their removal from the University

“We discussed these incidents with the Board yesterday, and they are aware, and they are aware of the seriousness of the incidents and concerns about the wellbeing of our students,” Wrighton said. “We do not comment on personnel actions. Those are completely private.”

Trustee Ellen Zane, the chair of the Board’s committee on finance and investments, said at the meeting that the University’s projections for the second quarter of the fiscal year are in line with GW’s annual goal of revenues exceeding expenses by 2 percent on a normalized basis. GW broke even on last year’s budget, meeting officials’ goal after they implemented budget cuts to mitigate a $180 million gap.

Zane said the University’s endowment reached a “record high” of $2.44 billion by the end of 2021.

“The capital budget is also tracking according to plan including the Thurston Hall renovation, which is on budget and on time for a fall 2022 opening,” Zane said.

Trustee Avram Tucker, the vice chair of the Board’s committee on finance and investments, said recent undergraduate enrollment trends are overall “doing quite well” despite a decrease in international enrollment, in light of the regular decision application deadline for undergraduates on Jan. 5.

Officials said in October that international student enrollment fell by 7.5 percent, which they said was the result of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

“We’re expecting to have good applications and enrollment in fall of 2022,” Tucker said. “International applications are returning back to normal except for China.”

Nicholas Pasion contributed reporting.

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