Title

University President Apologizes Over Majority-Rule Comparison

February 4, 2020
 
 

George Washington University’s president has apologized for comments the university described as an “insensitive example used in conversation” with a student.

“Yesterday, in a conversation with a student, I attempted to emphasize a point and used an insensitive example that I realize could be hurtful to members of our community,” said a statement from the university’s president, Thomas LeBlanc. “I deeply apologize for using that example. The point I was making -- that majority rule should never suppress the human rights of others -- was obscured by the example I used. I regret my choice of words and any harm I unintentionally inflicted on a community I value greatly.”

LeBlanc’s statement didn’t spell out exactly what he’d said. But the university’s student newspaper, The GW Hatchet, reported his comments were captured in a video displayed on a Facebook page, Overheard at GW.

That video shows a waist-level shot. Someone identifying herself as a student approaches someone who acknowledges he is the university’s president and proceeds to ask him several things, including about a controversial research center criticized for ties to the fossil fuel industry. At one point, she asks whether LeBlanc would shut down the center if a majority of students supported such a move. He responds by saying the center was a “legitimately founded academic organization” and by citing academic freedom.

“What if the majority of the students agreed to shoot all the black people here?” LeBlanc said in the video. “Do I say, ‘Oh, well, the majority voted?’ No. In this country we have rights. One of the rights is free speech and academic freedom, and I have to defend that.”

The environmental activist group Sunrise GW identified the student involved as one of its members.

Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.

 

We are retiring comments and introducing Letters to the Editor. Share your thoughts »

 

Opinions on Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U

Back to Top