Reports included messages of gratitude, plans for the university’s future as GW concludes the spring semester.
The George Washington University continues to closely monitor the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and is working diligently on plans for the fall semester and the corresponding budget impact, President Thomas LeBlanc reported to the Board of Trustees during its May meeting on Friday.
Dr. LeBlanc said he has seen “nothing short of a herculean response” from students, faculty, staff and GW’s safety and health care professionals, and he expressed his “sincere and heartfelt gratitude” for their efforts.
“I have to say, it has been humbling to be president of this great university,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “But it is especially so today in view of the tremendous demonstration of care, support and strength from every corner of our community.”
Many at GW have been engaged recently in planning for fall operating scenarios, working primarily toward on-campus instruction and a residential academic experience while also preparing for contingencies should it be necessary to continue online learning, Dr. LeBlanc said. Important factors that will inform whether it is safe to return to campus are local and federal public health guidance and protocols for testing, contact tracing and quarantining as well as social distancing.
Depending on the scenario, GW expects an adverse budget impact of between $100 million and $300 million in the next fiscal year. Input from the community and consultation with faculty and the board is guiding GW’s planning, which is driven foremost by safety.
As the financial challenges surrounding the university’s future are immediate and significant, the Board of Trustees called on the administration and leadership to begin planning and rapidly implementing actions that will address the immediate financial needs of the university.
The board approved a statement directing the administration to explore all appropriate options to begin planning and rapidly implementing actions. The board requested the administration adhere to the following principles and framework:
- A paramount focus on the health and safety of the community.
- Expedient action involving consultation with stakeholders, including the faculty and others for advice and input.
- Prudent cash management.
- Considerations for the fall semester.
- Permanent measures that have a lasting impact and sustain the course to preeminence in full recognition that the future will look very different from the past.
“In light of the pandemic, we know that we face some really difficult decisions ahead, and we are committed to considering all options to ensuring the financial health of our institution in the years to come,” said Ms. Speights, who also thanked the GW community for coming together in responding to the pandemic.
Dr. LeBlanc said he hopes GW will have a decision on fall operations by mid- to late-June.
Faculty Senate report
New Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Arthur Wilson said improving communication channels among trustees, faculty and the administration—the “three pillars” of shared governance—and improving the speed at which the Faculty Senate operates are two of his priorities.
“I hope that as that process continues the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee can participate fully with the administration and the board in how the university responds to the manifest challenges in front of us.”
Student Association report
New Student Association President Howard Brookins III said he plans to focus his tenure on ensuring student voices are heard at the administration and board levels and finding ways to enhance relationships between the administration and students.
“I hope to continue the conversation on how the university can maintain the student experience,” Mr. Brookins said.
GW Alumni Association report
GWAA President Richard Jones, J.D. ’84, noted a recent survey of alumni and emphasized the importance of continued engagement through virtual programming as the university prepares to celebrate its bicentennial in 2021.
“We clearly have some opportunities to better hone our programming and enhance our communication,” Mr. Jones said.
Dean, Committee and Task Force reports
All of GW’s deans also provided reports on Friday on the states of their schools and their efforts to plan for contingencies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board committees and task forces, including the Naming Task Force and Environmental, Social and Governance Responsibility Task Force, also provided reports. Both task forces are working expeditiously to fulfill their charges and called for input from the university community.
New and continuing trustees
The board elected two new trustees to serve terms from June 1 to May 31, 2024: Ali Kolaghassi, B.B.A. ’90, and Mollie Bowman, B.A. ’16, M.A. ’17, who is the recent alumni trustee.
Current trustees reelected to new terms included: Roslyn Brock, M.S. ’89; Amr ElSawy, M.S.E.E. ’81; Michael Hoffman; Madeleine Jacobs, B.S. ’68; and Judith Rogers, A.A. ’74.
The board approved an Occupational Therapy Doctorate degree in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and a Ph.D. program in Exercise Physiology and Applied Nutrition in the Milken Institute School of Public Health.
The board approved a resolution honoring former Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Sylvia Marotta-Walters, noting her leadership in the culture initiative, strategic planning and in updating the Faculty Code, and thanking her for her “long and distinguished service and her tireless support of shared governance.”
The board also recognized outgoing recent alumni trustee Gabbi Baker, B.B.A. ’13, for her passion, hard work and dedication to advancing GW’s mission. “You will be greatly missed,” Ms. Speights said.