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Board of Visitors recognizes student commitment to Mason’s Safe Return

October 2, 2020   /   by Anna Stolley Persky

George Mason University Board of Visitors Rector James W. “Jimmy” Hazel praised George Mason University’s successful return to campus amid the coronavirus pandemic during the Board of Visitors’ first meeting since campus re-opened for the fall semester. Hazel highlighted the university’s safety efforts and the dedication shown by Mason students.

“I’ve seen so many universities around the country where the students haven’t done their part,” said Hazel to the student body representatives attending the meeting. “Please communicate to the students our appreciation.”

Hazel also congratulated President Gregory Washington on his leadership. Hazel and other members of the Board of Visitors noted the amount of research being done at Mason related to addressing the coronavirus pandemic. 

In addition, Hazel commented on the “extremely good visit” last week by Gov. Ralph Northam, which showcased Mason’s successful efforts to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.  A few days later, Northam announced he tested positive for coronavirus. On the advice of health department officials, Hazel and Washington are self-quarantining because they were determined to have had potentially sufficient exposure to Northam during his visit. They, like many others, attended via web conference. 

In his presentation to the board, Washington said that Mason has had a great start to the academic year, despite the pandemic. He noted that enrollment is up 2.5% for a total enrollment of more than 39,000.

Washington said that Mason started the fiscal year with a $124 million deficit but has developed mitigation plans that have protected faculty and staff.

“I’m ecstatic at how well it’s going,” Washington said. “The campus is getting recognition through media outlets all over the country.”

Washington set out his goals for the upcoming years, including preparing students for a challenging post-pandemic economy and addressing racial inequities. Included in his goals were growing the student body to 50,000 and hiring between 300 and 500 new faculty.  In addition, he discussed the importance of partnering with the community and the state of Virginia.

“Our jobs will never leave,” Washington said. “They will never go to China. They will never go to Texas. They will stay right in this community.”

Also on Thursday, the Board of Visitors approved Kenneth Randall as the new dean of the Antonin Scalia Law School, effective Dec. 1, 2020. In addition, the Board of Visitors voted to house the new School of Computing and the existing Volgenau School of Engineering in a newly formed College of Engineering and Computing, to be led by Volgenau Dean Ken Ball.

Visitor Bob Witeck said that Mason is a success story for its ability to provide continued support and access to education to its students during the pandemic. Witeck noted the diversity of the student body, mentioning that 58% of the incoming class of freshmen were underrepresented minorities.

Visitor Jon M. Peterson said that Mason provided more than $2.5 million in emergency support to nearly 2,400 students between March and June.

Finally, the Staff Senate proposed that the Staff Senate chair be added to the Board of Visitors as a nonvoting member.

“With faculty and students both having at least one nonvoting representative on the board, this would be an important and symbolic way to show that the staff voice is also valued in the university conversation,” said Staff Senate Chair Lauren Reuscher.