Faculty and administrative leadership discussed fall and financial planning and the senate heard a requested update about the campus master plan process.
With a few weeks remaining until the start of a mostly virtual fall 2020 semester, university leadership and members of the Faculty Senate on Friday discussed updates to fall and financial planning.
While move-in began recently for a limited number of early-arriving students who have extenuating personal or academic circumstances, GW President Thomas LeBlanc noted, access to university campuses this fall will be limited to only those students, faculty and staff who have approval.
Those approved to be on campus will be required to follow all university guidelines, including for social distancing, masking, quarantining and testing. The university recently received approval from the FDA to conduct its COVID-19 testing, and those who will be tested are receiving more information.
Dr. LeBlanc recognized that the new changes to the university’s fall approach have created additional challenges for the GW community, including faculty.
“I want to thank the senate and your colleagues for your partnership and your dedication as we shift to this new normal,” Dr. LeBlanc said.
On financial planning, Dr. LeBlanc said the university is now projecting a gap between expected revenue and expenses of more than $200 million in the current fiscal year, and budget mitigation efforts recently announced include a temporary suspension of the university’s base and matching retirement contributions in addition to administrative restructuring, position eliminations and staff layoffs underway.
Provost M. Brian Blake provided background on the approach the university has taken to make these difficult decisions with care and individualized, unit-specific processes.
“As painful as it is, I have such empathy for those who have been loyal to us,” Dr. Blake said. “I also have empathy for the managers who made these decisions as well.”
Some faculty expressed concerns about the steps the university has taken to address the budget challenges and asked about the likelihood of additional short-term measures such as furloughs and temporary pay reductions. These actions continue to be part of active discussions among faculty and university leadership, Dr. LeBlanc said.
Dr. Blake and Jay Goff, vice provost for enrollment and student success, also provided an update on enrollment. They noted the challenges of predicting the number of students who will ultimately enroll this fall, but said the university has been implementing additional modes of outreach to students.
Also Friday, the senate heard a requested update about the Strategic Campus and Facilities Master Plan process.
The planning process, which began before the pandemic, aims to articulate the long-term vision and guiding principles for GW’s physical development planning and establish standards for a unified campus identity.
Those involved in the planning led a broad outreach campaign with the GW community earlier this year and have proposed some ideas for the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, including creating a unified “campus core” and anchor for student life as well as new facilities, streetscape and walkability improvements.
Dr. LeBlanc emphasized the planning process is for the long term, and the university remains focused foremost on the pandemic and its immediate financial effects. Still, some future campus planning is important because of specific development agreements and timelines established between the university and the District in the current regulatory campus plan, Dr. LeBlanc said.
“We have to start to think ahead … even though we have no intention of doing any of these things right this minute,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “This is a long way away from either approved, decided, financed—it’s none of those things yet.”
The senate also extensively debated three resolutions and adopted two.
The first addressed copyright on faculty intellectual property, course materials and recordings. The second addressed maintaining GW’s commitment to research and providing effective university infrastructure and resources to support it. A resolution on salary increases accompanying faculty promotions was referred to a senate committee for additional work.