Students, faculty, staff, workers, and other members of the Mason Community,
You are invited to the General Assembly on Wednesday, November 9th from 1 to 4pm at the North Plaza to discuss the issues that concern us all, and to move forward in creating positive change. The rain day will be Monday, November 14th from 12 to 3pm.
Part of George Mason University’s mission is to “educate the new generation of leaders for the 21st century—men and women capable of shaping a global community with vision, justice, and clarity.” This applies now more than ever. At the present moment, we are faced with serious social, economic, and political crises, including:
- An economic crisis with unprecedented student debt and national debt
- An environmental crisis threatening our climate and health
- A wealth crisis with a tremendous discrepancy between the top 1% and the 99%
- A power crisis where corporations dominate our political system
- A crisis of oppression in which our society continues to put women, people of color, LGBTQ identifying people, immigrants, and many other historically underrepresented identities at a disadvantage.
Though our challenges are great, our opportunities are greater. Looking back at the civil rights movement, women’s suffrage, and India’s nonviolent resistance, it is clear that people have the ability to make history by building a strong movement, one of which could start here on campus. The recent Arab Spring and #occupy movement is testament to the power people have when they assemble and work together to create change. Students play critical roles in social movements of the past, and college campuses have a unique opportunity to be the epicenter for change.
Join us, as we assemble to build relationships, and tackle issues that hinder our vision for a just world. The General Assembly will seek to provide a non-discriminatory, safe environment for people to discuss improvements needed at George Mason University.
Discrepancies at Mason
Here at Mason, we have our share of injustices. The #OccupyWallStreet movement remains critical of the top 1% most wealthy and privileged individuals from the most powerful institutions, such as banks and corporations. A quick look at Mason’s most powerful individuals reveals shocking statistics. The GMU Administration Organizational Chart includes 42 individuals in top positions. Of these, 98% are white and 64% are male. This is unacceptable. Although this demographic holds most of the power at Mason, they comprise only 0.1% of the Mason Community. Additionally, University President Merten makes $633,631 annually while our dining workers start at 2.79% of his salary.
Our Next President
Right now, a committee of 26 individuals is in the process of hiring our next university president. The University of Maryland recently underwent this process with 14% student representation on their committee. Here at Mason, there is only one student on our committee: a 4% student representation. Students may have received a survey to gain their input on this important decision; however, this survey was distributed after the position profile was established and the interview process had begun.
Unfortunately, a process for students to share their hopes, dreams, and visions with decision makers on campus and to participate in decision making is nearly nonexistent. While Student Government has the power to pass non-binding resolutions, these resolutions may be completely ignored by decision makers. Would it be possible to establish shared governance in which all stakeholders – students, faculty, and staff – can participate in decision making rather than concentrating power in the hands of the 0.1%?
Our faculty is an essential part of creating change at Mason. They have long-term visions and knowledge of Mason’s institutional workings. David Kuebrich, an associate professor of English at Mason, says that “At this moment of crisis—when we are losing both our democracy and our planet to individual and corporate greed—we professors must do more than teach the younger generation. We must also stand with them. Our students have a right to expect much from us. Not only must we restore our country’s earlier commitment to public higher education, but also, and more importantly, we must help restore basic decency to the public life of our nation. We faculty must begin to think and act in new ways. Soon it will be too late.”
Opportunities for Change
Fighting for justice and equality is not a new thing at Mason. In the fall of 2010, our dining workers went on strike to fight for better working conditions. The campus group TQ Mason is fighting for gender neutral bathrooms and more rights for transgendered and queer identifying students on campus. Student Government is actively working to address the student debt crisis by hosting an event called “What’s Your Number?” Several organizations are working together to provide economic and educational justice to undocumented students who have been paying taxes and living in VA for most of their lives. These are just a few examples of issues already being addressed.
This event is being organized for the Mason Community to exercise their constitutional and student right to free speech in accordance of the law and university policy. The organizers plan to work with, not against, the University Police Department and university administrators. All participants will be given an opportunity to speak. A moderator will limit the speaking time for everyone to assure that every voice can be heard. Everything discussed will be documented, and after the general assembly all participants will be encouraged to deliver this documentation to Mason’s top administration. You are invited to bring innovative change to this institution we all value. We conclude with the official mission of our university, with the hope of working with you to better achieve that mission.
The University’s Mission
George Mason University is innovative and entrepreneurial in spirit and utilizes its multi-campus organization and location near our nation’s capital to attract outstanding faculty, staff and students. George Mason will:
- Educate the new generation of leaders for the 21st century—men and women capable of shaping a global community with vision, justice, and clarity.
- Encourage freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in a tolerant, respectful academic setting that values diversity.
- Provide innovative and interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate, and professional courses of study that enable students to exercise analytical and imaginative thinking and make well-founded ethical decisions.
- Nurture and support a highly qualified and entrepreneurial faculty that is excellent at teaching, active in pure and applied research, capable of providing a broad range of intellectual and cultural insights, and is responsive to the needs of students and their communities.
- Maintain an international reputation for superior education and public service that affirms its role as the intellectual and cultural nexus among Northern Virginia, the nation, and the world.
Please consider joining the General Assembly to initiate the conversation about how we can create a unified vision for our university.
Jason Von Kundra
Mike “Biff” Anderson
 This does not include Virginia’s state Governor and the Board of Visitors who are elected by the Governor.
 Sodexo Labor Claim Report – Fall 2010, GMU Internal Audit and Management Services