“Managing this pandemic has called on us all to do our part to keep the community healthy and safe, and to support one another through these difficult decisions,” officials said in an email to the university community.
University leaders considered the spread of the virus, the school’s ability to house students safely and feedback from the community as they weighed the possibility of reopening the campus, according to the announcement.
Based on current conditions, the school said it is also unlikely commencement will be held in person in May.
GWU President Thomas J. LeBlanc told the Faculty Senate on Friday the spring semester “will look a lot like it looks right now,” according to the GW Hatchet, the student newspaper. Most classes are being taught remotely; exceptions have been made for a handful of courses that require research or in-person instruction.
The campus has reported 29 positive virus cases since August, the school’s testing dashboard shows. About 500 students are living on campus instead of the usual population of between 6,500 and 6,800 students, Maralee Csellar, a campus spokeswoman, said. Next semester, the university may expand housing, but it will depend on additional health and safety assessments, Csellar said.
As has been the case at most universities, GWU’s transition to remote learning altered its finances. The school reported a $220 million budget shortfall this semester. In response, it unveiled aggressive cuts, including plans to lay off staff, cut salaries and freeze retirement contributions.
Officials do not expect new cuts because of Friday’s announcement. And tuition discounts offered to most undergraduate students this fall will remain, the school said.
Hundreds of students and employees are urging the president to resign. More than a thousand students, staff, faculty and alumni have pledged to stop donating until LeBlanc is replaced, said Gaurav Gawankar, chief of staff to the student government president.
LeBlanc at a recent Board of Trustees meeting acknowledged the tension and said he would continue engaging the community, the student newspaper reported.