George Washington College declares its help for DC statehood
George Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc surprised many faculty members yesterday with a public statement by the university for the 51st state. There is significant support for statehood at the university, but there is no evidence that the faculty voted on such a statement, and there is no evidence that even the entire board voted on the matter. Some of us have long claimed this regardless of merit. As a political measure, the university should avoid speaking for the entire institution out of respect for the myriad of different voices and views that are represented in our community. This could be a question where we should give up our traditional neutrality as an institution and speak as one voice. As one of the oldest institutions in the city, the university may rightly want to be heard on this issue. But even if the school chooses to do so, the faculty's leadership values justify giving the faculty an opportunity to be heard. The staff and students also deserve to be heard in the process. This specific legislation has been pending for months and we could have submitted the matter to the faculty, staff, and students for their contributions. When we did that, I was not aware of it and the university did not suggest that such a vote was ever carried out by the community. I asked other faculties that also didn't know about faculty, student, or staff voting. The university itself could not lead a prior vote after an inquiry. The result is not necessarily different, but the process is important. I would think the same way (indeed, more) if the university announced an opposition to the DC statehood without the involvement of faculty, staff, and students.
I believe that if the faculty were asked, the measure will likely be highly supported, although some would continue to encourage such recommendations to be made by individuals or groups of faculties and students. We are a large community with different political and social perspectives. Maintaining this intellectual and political pluralism is central to its mission as a university.
These can be difficult questions, but the process of consultation and advice can create a feeling of unity. The law school was faced with this problem recently when it decided to have faculty members sign a letter convicting Attorney General William Barr instead of making a decision that spoke for the entire school. I commended my colleagues for their decision not to make such a statement as an institution, even though they clearly had enough votes. Her decision to express her views as individuals was important evidence of the continued support for collegiality and pluralism in our faculty. Some of us believed that the letter contained a number of legal statements that I believe are controversial, not established, or incorrect. The decision to use a letter from individual faculty members instead of a decision by the school spoke for our continued commitment to such a civil and scientific discourse.
This is also such an important topic that the university as a whole could have decided that we as an institution should speak. Indeed, such a declaration is more powerful if it is made with the participation of our entire community. In our opinion, if we had had a university-wide discussion and decision on the subject, some would have expressed conflicting views, but it is also valuable if people can join together as a community to discuss such issues. The debate on DC statehood is a complex issue with historical, constitutional and legal dimensions. It is also a problem with important and unresolved racial problems in a black majority city with no direct representation in Congress. I have previously expressed my view that such a lack of district representation is unacceptable and untenable in our country.
I have testified five times in the House of Representatives and the Senate on this topic in Congress, particularly on efforts to simply give the district a voice in the House of Representatives. I encouraged Congress to avoid such obviously unconstitutional voting measures as a non-governmental entity, and instead to focus on voting on statehood or retrocession. I proposed a "modified retrocession plan" that was also discussed in an academic paper. See Jonathan Turley, Too Clever By Half: Partial Representation of the District of Columbia to the House of Representatives, 76 George Washington University Law Review 305-374 (2008). My suggestion was that the federal shopping mall and core buildings would remain the District of Columbia (as is the case with this legislation), but the rest of the district would return to Maryland (like the other half of the original district to Virginia). This would give residents full representation while at the same time taking advantage of various educational and other opportunities in Maryland. I believed that such a retrocession offered the fastest course not only for full representation, but also for improved district social and educational programs. I presented a step-by-step retrocession plan that started with immediate and full representation. This could be done by voting in Congress.
People in good faith cannot agree to such proposals, and current legislation is clearly a constitutional approach to a definitive solution to the lack of representation in Congress. Indeed, it is important to hear from those who believe that statehood is an important step in dealing with the historical racial inequalities and discrimination in our nation. A modified retrocession may not be enough to solve such problems for many in our community.
However, this debate addresses the question of how best to safeguard district residents' representation rights. The immediate question is the university's decision to take a position as an institution and do so without a faculty vote. I contacted the university's media outlets to inquire about the process that led to this public statement. The decision was made by President LeBlanc and the "Board of Directors". I could not confirm whether this meant a vote by the entire board. Section IV of the rules for the Board of Directors states: "Unless otherwise specified by the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee must have and exercise all the powers and duties of the Board of Directors in the intervals between the meetings of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees, with the exception of the committee, has no power to To elect or remove curators or the president. “It is not clear whether this was an allowed vote by the Executive Committee and whether it held such a vote.
I believe again that many faculties and students could have supported the measure, although I cannot say for sure. It's about the governance of faculties and students.
Here is President LeBlanc's statement:
“George Washington University strongly supports the Washington DC Admission Act, which would include much of what is now Washington DC as a new state in the union.
Today's poll in the historic US House of Representatives represents more than 700,000 residents of the district. Many of our faculties, staff, and students live in the district, so they are not fairly represented in key federal government decisions, including critical funding issues to address racial and health inequalities in our country's capital. We also believe that representing our university would offer more opportunities to contribute through our academic and research missions that address these and other significant challenges and improve the lives of all Americans.
We remain grateful to the elected representatives of the district, particularly Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Muriel Bowser for their leadership and tireless commitment to equality. "
To like Loading…