Dr. LeBlanc emphasizes importance of health and safety, inclusion as university welcomes students, faculty, and staff to campus for fall semester.
Dear Members of the GW Community:
Welcome—or welcome back—to campus! It is exciting to finally be able to write those words, and to know that in the coming weeks we will once again experience the excitement of in-person classes, events, and community gatherings.
Still, as we begin this academic year I also am reflecting on the past many months. Our community has experienced incredible challenges since we were last fully in person in March 2020. But throughout the pandemic, I have been so impressed by the care and support our community has demonstrated, and by the efforts of those ensuring our health and safety as we worked toward our goal of being in person.
As we mark this milestone, I hope you will take some time to think about the significance of this moment, to give yourself the space you need to adjust, and to thank the frontline workers, scientists, and experts who have been keeping us safe.
Their work will continue to be critical this semester. So, too, is doing our part to keep one another healthy. I am proud to report that our community has achieved an impressive vaccination rate: More than 95 percent of our students, faculty, and staff are fully vaccinated, with a small number of exemptions. However, as with many communities, we expect we will see positive cases on campus, even among those who are vaccinated. But the vaccine requirement, and our multi-layered approach of masking indoors, conducting surveillance testing and contact tracing, and closely monitoring the evolving pandemic data and Delta variant, will support our community’s safety.
Equally important this fall is supporting an inclusive community. I hope that you will continue to take good care of one another, knowing that many are joining our community or arriving on campus for the first time and may need extra help. I want to be clear that at GW, we condemn hatred, including racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, ethnic and cultural discrimination, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. They are antithetical to our values, and to fostering a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive environment for all.
In particular, the ongoing reckoning with race in our country, and what we do individually and as a community to address it, will continue to define us in the coming year. Many at our university live in fear every day due to systemic racism, bias, and oppression in many forms. While there are important movements that have begun to make progress in creating a fairer and more just world, we are far from being the truly inclusive and equitable community that we aspire to be. That is why I want us to begin this academic year with open minds and hearts, working every day to embrace others for who they are, learn from them, and build mutual trust and a shared commitment to strengthening our world and celebrating one another.
I am very much looking forward to the many celebrations we have planned this fall. Several are taking place in just the next few weeks. We welcomed our new first-year and transfer students this past weekend during Convocation in the Smith Center, and October will bring the culmination of our bicentennial with the GW Centuries Celebration Weekend, which includes in-person events and activities for alumni, students, faculty, staff, and families, as well as Commencement on the National Mall for our Classes of 2020 and 2021.
This is an incredible time to be at GW. I feel privileged to be a part of this community at such a historic moment, building together on the 200-year legacy of our university and helping to shape our future. As we embark on our third century, I know we will keep our community strong. As ever, we all will need support this semester, so thank you for looking out for one another.
See you around campus soon—and Raise High!
Thomas J. LeBlanc