Virtual Learning to Continue for Spring Semester

Decision is based on health and safety and feedback from the GW community, President Thomas LeBlanc said at a Faculty Senate meeting.

October 12, 2020

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The George Washington University will continue virtual learning for the spring 2021 semester, President Thomas LeBlanc told the Faculty Senate on Friday.

“We believe that this path best supports the health and safety of our community while allowing us to continue to fulfill our core academic mission,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

In addition to health and safety, other considerations that led to the decision included recognition of the current spread of the virus and the continued uncertainty about the course of the pandemic, the pandemic’s effect on the residential experience and feedback from the community, which included a desire for flexibility and need for definitive information.

GW leadership consulted with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, Student Association leadership, academic leadership, and the Board of Trustees before making the decision, Dr. LeBlanc noted.

“We heard from these communities a general consensus for continuing virtual education into the spring, but also for making a decision and communicating the decision as soon as possible so that people can plan,” Dr. LeBlanc said.

The possibility of a virtual spring semester already was included in financial planning, Dr. LeBlanc added, so there are no new budget reductions associated with this decision.

All members of the university community received an update on the spring by email on Friday, and the university is working to provide more information as soon as possible and will schedule several question-and-answer virtual forums.

The COVID-19 website also will be updated frequently. The university added more information about spring housing to the Frequently Asked Questions on Friday.

In opening remarks, Dr. LeBlanc commended the faculty for everything they are doing to ensure students receive a high-quality academic experience, and he said he continues to hear positive feedback from students on their classes and the support they are receiving.

In his remarks, Provost M. Brian Blake said he and academic leadership have been discussing a possible pass/no pass policy for the fall semester with students, and he expects to provide an update soon. Dr. Blake also said that he would have an update on fall enrollment after the university census is conducted and analyzed in the coming week.

Anti-racist and anti-bias resources report
Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement Caroline Laguerre-Brown provided an overview of the anti-racist and anti-bias resources and support available to the GW community.

“The global movement for racial justice in the country has really raised a sense of urgency on our campus around these issues,” Ms. Laguerre-Brown said.

GW’s resources include live, engaging and customized sessions for unconscious bias training and creating inclusive classrooms; comprehensive resources on the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement (ODECE) website; assistance with developing climate surveys and facilitating group meetings; a bias incident reporting mechanism; and discrimination complaint procedures. Faculty or any GW community member can contact [email protected] for more information on the resources.

ODECE also is hosting its sixth annual Diversity Summit Nov. 11-13 this year.

GW Police Department report
Chief of Police James Tate reported on GWPD’s priorities and initiatives, highlighting accountability and transparency, internal improvements and community outreach.

Efforts in these categories include body-worn and in-car cameras and statistical reviews of investigations, complaints and arrests; plans for improving officer training and requirements for new recruits; and continued collaboration with a student advisory board to hear concerns, introduce new initiatives and strengthen relationships with students.

GWPD’s commitment, Mr. Tate said, is to be accessible and approachable, keep the campus safe, be public servants and build trust and legitimacy.

“We’re here to serve our public,” Mr. Tate said. “We’re here to keep everyone safe. But most importantly we’re here to make sure that we are a resource for our students, and our staff and our faculty.”

Other business
The senate adopted a resolution of “severe disapproval” of Dr. LeBlanc for the appointment of Heather Swain as vice president for communications and marketing.

As part of the resolution, the senate endorsed new protocols recommended by Dr. LeBlanc for hiring vice presidents who report to the university president. The protocols include guidelines for faculty consultation, search committees and vetting procedures.

“As noted several times during today’s Faculty Senate meeting, President LeBlanc met all of the requests in the original resolution, including a commitment to a new process for searches that will strengthen the involvement of faculty in future searches,” the Board of Trustees said in a statement. “The trustees and the administration will continue listening to and working closely with the Faculty Senate as we move forward together.”