George Washington University Declares Support For D.C. Statehood

300px-George_Washington_University_seal.svgGeorge Washington University President Thomas LeBlanc surprised many faculty members yesterday with a public declaration of the university for making the 51st state.  There is considerable support for statehood at the university but there is no indication that the faculty voted on such a declaration and there is no indication that even the Board as a whole voted on the matter.  Some of us have long maintained that, regardless of the merits of a political measure, the university should avoid speaking for the entire institution out of respect to myriad of different voices and views represented in our community.  This could well be a question upon which we should abandon our traditional neutrality as an institution and speak as one voice. As one of the oldest institutions in the city, the university may have legitimately wanted to be heard on the question. Yet, even when the school chooses to do so, faculty governance values warrant that the faculty should be given an opportunity to be heard. The staff and students also deserve to be heard as part of this process.  This specific legislation has been pending for months and we could have presented the matter to the faculty, staff, and students for their input. If we did, I am not aware of it and the university did not suggest that such a vote was ever taken by the community. I have asked other faculty who were also unaware of any vote by the faculty, students or staff. The university itself could not cite any prior vote after an inquiry. The result is not necessarily different but the process is important.  I would feel the same way (indeed more so) if the University announced opposition to D.C. statehood without faculty, staff, and student participation.

I expect that, if the faculty were asked, there would likely be a great deal of support for the measure, though some would continue to encourage that such endorsements be made by individuals or groups of faculty and students. We are a large community with different political and social viewpoints. Maintaining that intellectual and political pluralism is central to its mission as an institution of higher education.

These can be difficult questions but something the process of consultation and deliberation can bring a sense of unity.  The law school recently faced this issue when it elected to have faculty members sign a letter condemning Attorney General William Barr rather than having a resolution 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 sufficient votes to do so.  Their decision to state their views as individuals was an important demonstration of the continued support for collegiality and pluralism on our faculty. Some of us felt that the letter made a number of legal statements that I believe are contested, unestablished, or mistaken. The decision to use a letter of individual faculty members rather than a resolution of the school spoke to our continued commitment to such civil and scholarly discourse.

Again, this is such an important issue that the university as a whole could well have decided that we needed to speak as an institution.  Indeed, such a declaration is more powerful when issued with the participation of our community as a whole.  If we had a university-wide discussion and decision on this issue, I expect some would have voiced countervailing views, but there is also a value to people being able to join as a community in speaking to such issues.  The debate over D.C. statehood is a complex issue with historical, constitutional, and legal dimensions.  It is also an issue with important and unresolved racial issues of a black-majority city without direct representation in Congress.  I have previously voiced my view that such lack of representation for the District is unacceptable and untenable in our country.

I testified five times in the House and the Senate on this issue in Congress, particularly on the effort to simply give the District a vote in the House of Representatives.  I encouraged the Congress to avoid such flagrantly unconstitutional measures of a vote as a non-state entity and instead focus on a vote of statehood or retrocession.  I proposed a “modified retrocession plan”, which was also discussed in an academic work. See, Jonathan Turley, Too Clever By Half: The Partial Representation of the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives, 76 George Washington University Law Review 305-374 (2008).  Under my proposal, the mall and core federal buildings would remain the District of Columbia (as is the case in this legislation) but the remainder of the District would retrocede back to Maryland (as did the other half of the original District to Virginia). In this way, residents would receive full representation while receiving the benefits of various Maryland educational and other opportunities.  I believed that such retrocession offered the fastest course for not just full representation but improved social and educational programs for the district residents.  I laid out a phased retrocession plan that began with immediate and full representation.  This could be done by congressional vote.

People of good-faith can disagree on such proposals and the current legislation is clearly a constitutional approach to reaching a final resolution on the lack of representation in Congress.  Indeed, it is important to hear from those who believe that statehood is an important step toward dealing with the historical racial inequalities and discrimination in our nation.  Modified retrocession may not be enough to resolve such issues for many in our community.

That debate however goes to the merits on how best to secure representational rights for District residents. The immediate question is the decision for the university to take a position as an institution and to do so without a faculty vote. I contacted the media relations for the university to inquire about the process leading up to this public declaration.  It stated that the decision was made by President LeBlanc and “Board leadership.”  I was unable to confirm if this meant that there was a vote of the Board as a whole.  Section IV of the rules governing the Board does state that the “Executive Committee, during the intervals between meetings of the Board of Trustees, shall, to the extent not otherwise specified by the Board, possess and exercise all of the powers and duties of the Board of Trustees, except the Committee shall have no power to elect or remove Trustees or the President.” It is not clear if this was a permitted vote of the Executive Committee and whether it held such a vote.

Once again, I believe that many faculty and students might have supported the measure, though I cannot say with any certainty.  The issue is one of faculty and student governance.

Here is the statement issued by President LeBlanc:

“The George Washington University strongly supports the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would admit much of present-day Washington, D.C., into the union as a new state.

The historic U.S. House of Representatives vote today represents a vote for equality for more than 700,000 District residents. Many of our faculty, staff, and students live in the District, so they lack fair representation in the federal government’s most consequential decisions, including critical matters of funding to address racial and health inequities in our nation’s capital. We also believe that representation would allow our university more opportunities to contribute, through our academic and research missions, solutions that address these and other significant challenges and improve the lives of all Americans.

We remain grateful to the District’s elected officials, especially Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Muriel Bowser, for their leadership and tireless advocacy for D.C. statehood.”

102 thoughts on “George Washington University Declares Support For D.C. Statehood”

  1. Amazing how the inept comments flow. Number one. No one in the Biden campaign has the a slightest idea how to select a President and worse the rest of the country has zero idea who or what they are voting for. Maybe we DO need martial law as a way to retain our Constitutional Republic and get rid of the trash and corruption starting with foreign idiotlolgists!

    Cheers

    Start with

  2. Children should study hard lear be rarely seen and preferably not heard. Especialy those that failed high school civics and basic ethics.

  3. Retrocission is absolutely the way to go. Anyone who chooses to continue to live in what would be much smaller residential areas would be affirming they understand the only persons they’ll be voting for will be President and Vice-President. Replace the D.C. City Council with a federal appointee to act as the District Administrator. Restructure the D.C. police, fire and emergency services.

  4. The Democrats wont let the District minus certain Federal enclaves revert back to Maryland because then they lose the opportunity to gain 2 Democratic Senators if DC is made a state

  5. Wait, why don’t the residents of DC, just pick which state they want their rights in, some will want the Virgin state, and some will want the Mary state, but just give them the elective.

    I am sure someone will explain to me on here why this is not a good idea, lol, that is fine.

  6. Commit — Why does Maryland have to agree? Did Virginia agree to take back Arlington?

    If agreement required, how much to convince them? Almost anything is better than another small state.

  7. I agree that retrocession of most of the present District of Columbia (where most DC residents live) is the most equitable solution. It avoids creating another travesty such as Rhode Island or Alaska with the same Senate representation as Texas, New York or California. Conversely, if DC becomes a city-state with its own Senate contingent, there’ll be more impetus behind the movement to reapportion California into several separate states. There would be a degree of justice in such movements.

    Parts of the US Gulf Coast would have an historical case to revert to being “West Florida”, the republic which was annexed by the US in the early 1800s (the southern counties of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as the “Florida Parishes” of Louisiana – basically, the north and east shores of Lake Pontchartrain, running north to the Mississippi state line, and westward to the east bank of the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge). If the District of Columbia gets two Senators by legislative action, the equitable thing to do would be to create one or more states like West Florida to counterbalance this instant increase in the Democratic Party’s power base.

    1. loupgarous – if we are recessioning things, I vote for Tucson, AZ and everything south to go back to Mexico. 🙂 Take that U of A.

      1. Paul – I was sort of pushing the same agenda – I’m a resident of southern Mississippi who’d love to have LSU – Baton Rouge (the current NCAA football champion) as part of my state.

        1. loupgarous – those LSU fans are pretty fanatical, so I am thinking you might get them is you allowed them to keep the name but just took that part of the state. 😉

          1. Southern Mississippi is already full of LSU fans (you can get Mississippi license plates with LSU and U of Alabama logos on them).

            1. loupgarous – we are not so accommodating in AZ. You can get ASU, NAU, Grand Canyon Univ, and UofA plates.* I do not think you can get the community colleges and you certainly cannot get any of the rest of the PAC-12.

              *Universities are listed in order of importance.

    2. No matter how many people on this blog want the land retrocessed to MD, legally it cannot happen unless MD agrees to it, and MD isn’t interested. You’re going to have to come up with a better argument if you want to convince the citizens and legislature in MD to change their minds.

    1. It’ll be July 4 in Vicksburg in a few days.

      If Mississippi drops the symbol of liberty, Lee’s Battle Flag, from it’s flag they should replace it with an image of a Puzzy on their flag!

      1. Mississippi has fought and its people died on foreign battlefields in two World Wars, and in Korea and Vietnam. In all that time we’d already legally dropped the confederate ensign from the top left field of our state flag – accidentaly. It wasn’t until 2001 before the state legislature formally restored what the 1906 revised statutes inadvertently took away.

        You can wear whatever you want on your flag. Mississippians have upheld their statte motto, Virtute et armis>i> by actions on the battlefield. We don’t need outsiders telling us either way what to put on OUR flag.

        1. Once more, with coffee:
          Mississippi has fought and its people died on foreign battlefields in two World Wars, and in Korea and Vietnam. In all that time we’d already legally dropped the confederate ensign from the top left field of our state flag – accidentaly. It wasn’t until 2001 before the state legislature formally restored what the 1906 Revised Statutes inadvertently took away.

          You can wear whatever you want on your flag. Mississippians have upheld their statte motto, Virtute et armis by their actions on the battlefield. We don’t need outsiders telling us what to put on OUR flag.

      2. JULY 4 IN AMERICA — WHAT WILL YOU DO TO SECURE OUR POSTERITY? ANYTHING?

        THE USUAL CIVIC FIREWORKS ALMOST ALL CANCELLED DUE TO COVID

        BUT NOT “PROTESTS” / RIOTS! THEY THINK THEY’RE ABOVE THE LAW!

        THEY PLAN TO BE ON THE STREETS LETTING OFF THEIR OWN FIREWORKS.

        BE READY LIKE CHAD!

  8. The Constitution differentiates between “…the seat of government…” and “…the United States.”

    The District of Columbia is, and shall be in perpetuity, the “seat of government” and nowhere does the Constitution consider the District of Columbia a “…State…,” and nowhere does the Constitution present particular conditions under which it would be necessary or licit for the District of Columbia to become a state.

    “Statehood” is a preposterous, disingenuous and profligate money-grab, a vacuous publicity stunt and a frivolous political proposal which the legislative branch, with emphasis on the Supreme Court, must void with extreme prejudice.
    _______________

    Article 1, Section 8

    To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;

  9. Jonathan Turley, retrocession for the major portion of the District of Columbia is a good idea! Please use more time advocating the simplest of plans.

    1. Retrocession: the action of ceding territory back to a country or government
      Who should we recede it to, the Native Americans?
      Which parts are to be ceded? Just Federally owned land? or the cities land too?
      Who gets to decide which parts, go where? The Federal government, or the people of D.C.?
      Ya, simple, kinda like your mind.

      1. The antecedent holder was the State of Maryland. The federal government owns property all over the country, and we muddle through passably without insisting anything occurring on the property in question is immune from the jurisdiction of state and territorial government. There is no mystery about how to proceed. If the State of Maryland will consent to a retrocession, we can retrocede. Sorting responsibility between state and federal jurisdiction can proceed much as it does in Idaho, where the federal government also owns land.

        The more challenging question is the governance model for metropolitan Washington. Other places muddle through with metropolitan centers split between states. We could muddle through, or try for something better as a demonstration project for the states. This year, Washington, next year Kansas City, and the year after that Philadelphia.

        1. New Orleans has, for decades, attempted to impose a “metropolitan income tax” on residents of surrounding areas who earn their livings in the city/parish of Orleans (New Orleans has, for a while now, extended its city limits out to the Orleans Parish line), And the Louisiana state legislature has in all that time sent New Orleans back unhappy. That area has already had home rule since the time of the Longs. I have many Orleanians as friends and wish them well in their choice of a domicile. It’s just not for me, and never has been, even when I lived in Louisiana.

          1. The problem around New Orleans is the same you see in any metropolis in this country – the disjunction between the settlement boundary and the administrative boundaries. Another problem you see is excess fragmentation of service delivery. The extant administrative boundaries were not delineated on tablets from Moses. They’re conventional. Your problems with local finance can be addressed as follows: (1) discontinue dedicated state aid to localities except for disaster relief and indemnities. Have distributions to parish governments consist of (1) rental payments should the state contract to use property owned by local authorities; (2) payment in lieu of property taxes on any state or federal buildings in a given parish or municipality and (3) a general grant distributed to parish governments. The state appropriation for such grants would be at the discretion of the legislature, but the distribution would be according to formulae delineated in an appendix to the state constitution. A given parish’s grant would be positively correlated to its population and negatively correlated to its per capital personal income. It would function as a riser for impecunious parishes to stand on; a parallel series of grants could be made to school districts. (5) aggregate certain services, mainly law enforcement. Louisiana’s parishes could be clustered into about 18 cantons. The legislative body for each would be a convocation of parish councils, proceeding by weighted voting. Each canton would have a sheriff and a social welfare inspector as the primary locus of law enforcement. Metropolitan cantons would have a chief of police as well, whose ambo would be the densely settled core of said cantons. Supplementary police forces would include (1) the state police; (2) municipal police in non-metropolitan towns; (3) deputized security guards (to be found on college campuses, at transportation hubs, at stadiums, at hospitals, and at outlet malls, contingent on local policy). The convocation in each canton would determine a budget for the institutions of the canton, for which charges would be apportioned among the member parishes according to population. Supplementary revenue could be had in the form of capitations charged (e.g. when a municipality requests bailiffs to provide security on its property, when a school district requests deputies for security in its schools, and when a school district remands an incorrigible to a day detention center run by the sheriff). Cantons which have city police departments would in lieu of that finance the sheriff’s patrol through supplementary property taxes levied in the countryside while the city police department would be financed by a sales tax collected in town.

            1. You seem to be under the impression thar your cantons would accomplish anything that parish and city home rule haven’t. You might acquaint yourself with the political history of Louisiana. The state is rich in natural resources which should, along with modest state and local sales taxes and user fee-type taxation, fund state operations. Louisiana has never lived within her means, even when she had a windfall of revenue from royalties on offshore drilling in her coastal areas. State lotteries and fees from casino permits have only temporarily eased her financial woes.

              All of your correctives assume the presence of honest men in positions of authority. Perhaps they’ll stay honest once elected, but that’s a story for another day. MIssissippi’s managed to live within her means with a much less complex apparatus of state than you mention or that Louisiana has. Simplicity favors transparency, and transparency has worked here. Complexity just allows bad men to work their cons out of public sight.

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