Emphasizing the importance of striving to become a “welcoming, diverse and inclusive community,” George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc on Friday addressed GW yearbook archives with racist images that have recently circulated online.
“It’s important for us to acknowledge our history, even when we don't like what we see,” Dr. LeBlanc said during remarks at the Board of Trustees’ February meeting. “Racism has no place at GW, and we will work every single day to create a welcoming, inclusive community for all. And we will continue to learn from our past and try to be more inclusive now and in the future.”
Updating the board on strategic initiatives progress, Dr. LeBlanc said the university is working to accelerate its renovations to Thurston Hall and noted efforts to provide students with more opportunities to learn quantitative skills, including through data analysis and computer science, regardless of their discipline. Among other updates, Dr. LeBlanc said:
- Fundraising is currently ahead of its projected goal.
- The university is reviewing a report on research improvement recommendations and launching another phase of the research ecosystem review.
- After its survey and interviews with staff and faculty on the university’s institutional culture, the Culture Leadership Team is working with the Disney Institute on its next steps and how to address the issues raised.
Also Friday, the board announced nominees for its three leadership positions: Grace Speights, J.D. ’82, for chair, Ellen Zane, B.A. ’73, for reelection as vice chair and Ave Tucker, B.B.A. ’77, for secretary. It also approved the university’s new mission statement, which is drawn directly from GW’s Congressional Charter.
Chair Nelson A. Carbonell, Jr., B.S. ’85, provided an update on the board’s planning for a comprehensive review of Dr. LeBlanc. The review—a best practice at universities and part of the president’s contract when he joined GW—is an “opportunity for all of us to give the president candid and constructive feedback,” Mr. Carbonell said. Information about forums for students, faculty and staff input is forthcoming.
In other board news:
- Student Association (SA) President Ashley Le discussed the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, saying the university community must work together to create a welcoming place and better support students. “I’m really hopeful,” Ms. Le said. “I think that we have made progress. But for a lot of our students time is running out.”
- The Volunteer Engagement Task Force approved guidelines for the new GW Alumni Association and plans to roll out the new association to the broader community by April 30 and initiate a strategic planning process by May 30. “The new alumni association will focus on engaging all alumni, all 290,000 graduates, regardless of where they are in their lifecycle or where they live,” said Chair Roslyn Brock, M.S. ’89.
- The board approved bylaw amendments codifying the observer status of the SA president and the chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.
- Reporting on the board’s Committee on Strategic Enrollment, Mr. Tucker said the group continues to work with administrators to discuss GW’s approach over the next decade, considering changes in demographics and higher education broadly. “This is very important work,” Mr. Carbonell said, adding GW is choosing to “plot our own destiny” with regard to its proactive enrollment strategy.
- In her remarks, Sylvia Marotta-Walters, chair of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, said faculty have been closely involved in strategic initiatives work, particularly around research and institutional culture, and have been recommending updates to the Faculty Code and discussing proposed changes to Title IX and prohibited relationship policies.
- The board approved the following faculty for tenure: Immanuel Kim, associate professor of East Asian languages and literature; Yanfen Hu, professor of anatomy and cell biology; and Rong Li, professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine. The board approved the following faculty for emeriti status: Hossein Askari, professor emeritus of international business; James Cawley, professor emeritus of prevention and community health; and Caroline Sparks, associate professor emerita of prevention and community health.