Strategic Plan, Progress on Other Key Initiatives Highlighted at Board Meeting

President LeBlanc also apologized for recent remarks and reiterated commitment to GW community.

Thomas LeBlanc and Board Chair Grace Speights at the Board of Trustees meeting. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
GW President Thomas LeBlanc and Board Chair Grace Speights at the Board of Trustees meeting. (Harrison Jones/GW Today)
February 10, 2020

George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc apologized again for his racially insensitive remarks at the Board of Trustees’ February meeting on Friday.

“I have had the chance to meet with a number of individuals and groups in our community to recognize the hurt that I caused to members of our community and to apologize to them in person, and I want to do it here publically as well,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “I am most sorry for the fact that I’m aware of the burden that students of color carry on this campus to feel included. To have added one ounce to this burden is my deep regret.

“I hope to use this as a learning experience on my part.”

Presidential updates

Dr. LeBlanc announced that GW has been awarded the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, a national designation recognizing exceptional commitment to public service and community engagement.

“This is a significant achievement for us and reflects the work of many at GW who are committed to the betterment of our communities,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

The president also provided progress reports on several ongoing initiatives. These included:

  • The renovation of Thurston Hall, which remains on track for a fall 2022 reopening.
  • Increased safety and security enhancements, such as the hiring of Chief of Police James Tate and the installation of almost 1,500 tap access locks across 15 residence halls.
  • Progress in GW’s culture initiative, including enhanced tuition remission for benefits-eligible employees and their families.
  • Ongoing “GW + You” community receptions with alumni, families, students and friends around the country.
  • Continuing focus on GW’s medical enterprise, including the arrival of Vice President for Health Affairs, Dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Faculty Associates (MFA) Barbara Lee Bass and MFA Chief Operating Officer Benjamin Riestra.

Dr. LeBlanc, with Strategic Planning Task Force Chair Christine Barth, also provided updates on GW’s strategic planning process and asked the board and other community members to review the interim reports made by GW’s four faculty-led strategic planning committees. Provost M. Brian Blake will moderate three public forums on these reports, the first of which is Monday, Feb. 10, at noon in the Milken Institute School of Public Health Auditorium.

“There are a lot of really good ideas included that show the depth and breadth of what we can accomplish together over the next five years to transform GW,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

Other board news

Board Chair Grace Speights also announced the formation of a Board of Trustees task force to establish a long-term proactive approach toward managing environmental, social and governance responsibility at GW.

“Our objectives are to provide an institutional statement of beliefs on environmental, social and governance responsibilities; address a broad range of environmental, social and governance issues; establish a process to consider proposals from the GW community; promote education, research and intellectual debate; and inform all of our constituents about policies and practices and obligations related to all of these issues,” Ms. Speights said.

  • The board approved tuition rates for 2020-21, increasing tuition for incoming undergraduate students by 3 percent. Current students’ tuition costs will remain fixed.
  • Professor Sylvia Marotta-Walters reported from the Faculty Senate and urged shared governance between the Board of Trustees and the relevant committees of the Faculty Senate. She pointed to the success of the culture initiative and the research ecosystem assessment as models.
  • Student Association (SA) President SJ Matthews expressed frustration with a perceived lack of transparency by the administration and advocated for increased inclusion of student voices.
  • GW Alumni Association President Richard Jones updated the Board on the activities of the alumni association including support of the “GW + You” community receptions around the country.
  • At the invitation of Board Chair Grace Speights, a representative of Sunrise GW, a student climate action group, asked the Board to divest the university’s investment of endowment funds in fossil fuel companies.
  • Trustee Mark Chichester, chair of the Task Force on Naming, reported that the task force convened its first two meetings in December and January, at which members began to define the principles and processes guiding their work.

    “We are keenly aware that we are not the first university to tackle questions in search of a framework to guide us when issues around naming arise,” Mr. Chichester said. “We have committed to a shared learning exercise to better understand the work that has been done and the lessons learned by other institutions.”

    The task force, with the assistance of board staff and university archivists, is also examining the history of naming practices and policies throughout GW’s history.
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