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.”

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

  1. It’s an inane idea that should go away. It’s just the sort of thing a higher ed apparatchik would think the right thing to do.

    The original concerns which motivated the creation of the district are now quaint. The optimal solution would be

    1. Retrocession, which would render DC voters part of the Maryland Congressional delegation and

    2. Adoption in Maryland and Virginia of a mirror amendment which would enable and maintain a menu of institutions contingent on periodic referenda. The contingent practice would distribute the authority of the Maryland legislature between four conciliar bodies: one council each for Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and the District; and an assembly for the rest of the state. For Virginia, the legislative power would be distributed between five councils: one each for Arlington / Alexandria, Fairfax County & c, Prince William County &c, and Loudon County; and an assembly for the rest of the state. Privileges and immuniities due people in the counties in question would under the respective constitutions be in abeyance in favor of those listed in an interstate compact.

    3. The composition and ratification of an interstate compact creating a municipal corporation governing the seven counties in question. Conciliar bodies elected in each component would be the default locus of legislative power. A common council elected over the whole seven county territory would have three sets of powers (1) enumerated conduit powers any legislature should have; (2) a spare set of baseline powers that you would not wish to have the components exercising; and (3) supplementary powers specified in a statute of common government. The statute would be composed and amended by a biennial convocation of all the component councils, proceeding by weighted voting. The councils of the seven components would thus regulate the delegated powers exercised by the whole.

    You enact this, Maryland and Virginia are treated as two states for purposes of congressional representation, but (contingent on periodic referenda) can be treated as three states for purposes as provincial government as the quintessential Maryland, the quintessential Virginia, and greater Washington each go their own way on policy.

    DC constitutes just 15% of the urban settlement around Washington and should not perform any functions characteristics of supralocal government.

  2. DOES EVERY STATE DESERVE 2 SENATORS?

    One argument against statehood for Washington DC would be that such a move would give the city ‘2’ U.S. Senators, which is arguably ‘too much representation’ for 700,000 people.

    Yet 6 states have populations of less than a million people: Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming. Those 6 states combined have less people than L.A. County or New York City.

    North and South Dakotas combined have about the same number of people as the City of Philadelphia. Just the ‘city’, mind you, not the Metro region. Metro Philadelphia is considerably bigger than both Dakotas combined.

    Vermont and New Hampshire combined are only slightly bigger than Philadelphia. Vermont and New Hampshire, one should note, were originally part of New York. In Colonial days they were known as ‘The Grants’.

    Delaware was originally a semi-autonomous county of Pennsylvania. And Rhode Island was originally linked to Massachusetts.

    Montana and Wyoming combined have ‘less’ people than Philadelphia. Those states, however, are physically huge; Alaska as well.

    Therefore the concept that every state is entitled to 2 Senators gives disproportionate representation to relatively few people.

    1. DOES EVERY STATE DESERVE 2 SENATORS?

      It’s a legal convention, Peter. If you want some alternative arrangement, you have to respect constitutional rubrics.

    2. Therefore the concept that every state is entitled to 2 Senators gives disproportionate representation to relatively few people.

      Civics 101: In our bicameral system, Senators represent states. This is designed specifically to provide each state equal representation. The 17th amendment may have confused you into thinking they were in Congress to represent you. They are in Congress to represent the interests of of their states.

      1. Olly, that arrangement is fine for conservatives since about 20 of the 30 smallest states tend to be conservative.

        But 75% of the the U.S. population lives in the 20 most populous states. That three quarters of America is UNDER-REPRESENTED.

        1. Peter, it was designed from the very beginning to reflect an alternate principle of representation. If you don’t like that, you might quit whining and design an alternative.

        2. That three quarters of America is UNDER-REPRESENTED.

          I live in CA. I’m conservative. I live in a conservative district and I’m represented by my preferred Congressman. My state has its full allotment of Senators. Neither represent my conservatism, but they are not there to represent my interests. They represent the interests of the state legislature. If it becomes intolerable to remain in this state, I will move to a state that better represents my interests. That’s how it was always designed to work.

    3. Wasn’t the original idea for 2 senators to be appointed by the state legislators, not elected by the citizens. The senators were to go to Washington and lookout for the interest of the states they represented and report back to the governors and legislators. The congress were elected directly by the people in their districts. And congressional seats were distributed according to state population.

      1. Independent Bob – there were twelve amendments sent to the states for ratification, only ten were approved. The two that were rejected were direct election of Senators and one Representative per 50,000 residents.

      2. Ind Bob, Exactly. They were supposed to represent their state government in the Senate. Appointed, not elected. By the legislature or governor. It was to be a group of the politically astute each representing their State. This is the feature that separates a Republic from a Democracy. (Sorry, Ben, we didn’t keep it.) A Republic elects wise, trusted electors to represent their interests in the selection of President. It was not to be a political popularity contest.
        The covid crisis response is the dreaded (by Ben) option of a sacrifice of liberty for safety. He knew that there is no such thing as a temporary government measure.

  3. This is an obvious power grab. That’s all it is. The people living the DC can move to the other 99.999% of the country if they want our crappy “representative” system. Otherwise, stick it.

    1. They won’t get it there either. Like the “class warfare” Republicans like to complain about they are playing “power grab” politics at all times and only complain when they might lose a round.

  4. I agree with your essay. I am a GWU faculty member who was equally surprised by the President speaking for all of us.

    I strongly disagree with the University taking political stances as it runs the risk of alienating the many parents and students who disagree. Many parents in particular keenly feel that universities are indoctrinating their children and this plays into that. Between this and the very public proclamations of support for other recent arguably political stances, I am very worried about the future of our university.

    No, I will not speak out publicly as I have no desire to be harassed at work and potentially lose my job for holding a different viewpoint.

    1. If you’re like many of us playing the home game, trying to keep up, then you also know this nation is seriously in trouble of being over ran by authoritarian billionaire aholes that hate the US’s guts & that are funding these riots.

      I haven’t read this 1st link yet, I’ll get to it later, but I’ve been following the subject: The collapse of universities.

      https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/nyu-prof-hundreds-if-not-thousands-universities-will-soon-be-walking-dead

      If anyone wishes to understand where the US/ World is at this time at the only need to re-watch the movie & then look around at all the vaccine damaged flipper babies with lower IQ’s then my G shepherds. Try typing in search…. US IQ’s Dropping & see what you get.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clYwX8Z43zg

      If you go to Banned.Video, scroll down a bit on the left side attorney Robert Barnes regularly post commentary & there’s others.

        1. Oky1 – OT:

          This is an oldie, but a goodie.

          I have been on a binge last week watching The Mummy movies. The 1999 one was pretty good, I think it went downhill from there. The VFX were amazing at the time in 1999.

  5. Law and Crime reports that 80% of GWU law school law professors and deans this week sighed a letter demanding Barr’s resignation, as well as encouraging lawmakers to investigate and censure him. the faculty members said in the letter that Barr has “undermined the rule of law, damaged public confidence that the law applies equally and fairly to all persons, and demonstrated contempt for basic constitutional rights” Since Turley seems to be locked on GWU of late, one has to wonder why he has not brought this one up. Sorry if I have missed Turley writing about this subject, then I would love to know how he voted.

  6. 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.

    Important you say. How long has Mayland, Illinois, Oregon, California and so on been states? It should be obvious by now that statehood isn’t going to be a step towards anything that requires good governance.

  7. What is amazing is the level of stupidity among the Democrats today.
    Chaz out in Seattle is EXACTLY why we have DC as it is.

    Hey if you dont like it guess what, you dont have to live there!
    People CHOOSE to live in DC. When you CHOOSE to live in a place, accept the consequences.

    Retrocession would not end well. I lived outside DC, believe me you do not want DC people dominating Maryland politics. They are idiots.
    Professor Turley inherently knows this because of how he suggests retrocession into Maryland will be a boon to DC residents. Of course it will because it would be like taking a dozen homeless people in your home. At first they are helped greatly until a few weeks in when your house is destroyed and you are out of food and money.. Unless you want to see Maryland turn into a sh*thole.
    Which county you going to move them into? Thatll be hilarious.

    .

  8. Our smallest state has 1,000+ square miles. DC has 68. Of course democrats want DC to be a state. Two democrat Senators for an area that is smaller than quite a few ranches in Texas. And, they know from recent experience that if they whine and cry racism loud enough, do a little looting and some burning, and tear down statues of people– any people– they probably will get their way. Sam Houston is one our Texas heroes. Who will it be for DC? Marion Barry?

    1. Why does the area matter? Land is not a person. Land doesn’t have rights. People have rights, and there are more people living in DC than in either WY or VT. The area matters to *you* because you’re looking for an argument against DC statehood, even though an argument based on land area is a crappy argument.

      “they probably will get their way.”

      It will take a constitutional amendment, so if DC becomes a state, it will be the nation’s choice.

      1. Commit– Did you ever wonder why people who work in DC high-tail it for the suburbs when they get off? If it is such a wonderful place, why don’t they all live there? I have lived there and I know why they don’t.

        1. I haven’t lived in DC, but I’ve lived inside the Beltway, and if you’ve lived in DC, you should know the answer to your question: the plurality of people who work in DC **do** live in DC, and DC also doesn’t have enough housing for all of the people who work there.

              1. Anonymous – you all did notice that JT is all for giving the land to Maryland, not Virginia (where he lives). 😉

    2. Honest is just a mouthpiece for the minority of voters his party represents to maintain power. Pretenses to principle will have to be proved by him.

      By virtue of a winner take all electoral college they have managed to have 3 presidential terms in the last 7 despite losing 6 of them by voters (and the single victory an anomaly by a loser incumbent) and this in turn has given us a majority conservative SC after they stole another seat from a twice elected legitimate president. The Senate has long given them representation out of proportion to the population of the states, while the House is gerrymandered enough that only outsized total Democratic votes – like in 2018 – will get them a majority.

      And Honest comes to lecture us on fairness and in other threads patriotism as he continues to support his Manchurian candidate. Self awareness is not his strong suit.

        1. The EC was intended to protect us from people like Trump who are unfit for office.
          And when the country was founded, the EC vote power of people in different states didn’t vary as dramatically as it does now, both because state populations didn’t differ as dramatically (the ratio of largest:smallest state populations was ~12:1 in 1790 and is now ~70:1) and because the size of House districts was much smaller (initially 1 Rep. per ~35K people on average, now 1 Rep per ~747K people on average).

          1. Commit, it was also not winner take all in the states who have the authority to set up their own rules. Not surprisingly they mostly chose to do winner take all to maximize their impact. Rarely has that rewarded the national loser, but it has happened twice in the last 5 elections and with a 3rd featuring an incumbent who shouldn’t have had that advantage.

  9. My solution is that after 8 pm everyone leaves D.C. It becomes a “sundown city” for everybody. It just goes back to where your job is, not where your home is.

  10. Constitutions have been around since before the time of the Greek city states such as Athens, Sparta, etc. Carthage had a constitution. They were there, just as now, as a check and balance to the changing morals and leaders of the day. They gave then as they do know a reference point for the governments of the moment. They were always being redrafted as circumstances changed and the city states evolved. The Constitution of the United States was written at a time when the new country had yet to evolve morally in many ways. The US of 1776 would be seen today, in many wars, as a country heavily criticized regarding human rights. There are still many flaws in this nation and just as with the amendments that emancipated the slaves, gave women the right to vote and recently gave the residents of DC the right to vote in federal elections the amendments reflect attempts to perfect this perfect piece of paper. Arguing against something that is right for this time in the evolution of this country because it is not in the Constitution or argued against in the Constitution is not of the spirit that made this country, as it is perceived in its mythology. The people of DC want to become a state then it should be put to a vote through the system. If just about every other country in the world can do it then why not the US, evolve that is. The Constitution is an ongoing project that reflects in its changes the social evolution of a people.

  11. If the federal government ceded all but the suggested core and the Maryland refused jurisdiction — didn’t claim the land, is it then the District Suburbs Autonomous Zone?

    1. “is it then the District Suburbs Autonomous Zone?”

      Parts of DC are already lawless autonomous zones for all practical purposes.

  12. Professor Glen Loury of Brown was irate that his school made a proclamation on BLM that he did not concur w/ and was not consulted. Free speech is being hit by a Hitler blitzkrieg.

  13. I thought the whole point of the District of Columbia was to have a neutral location for the nation’s capital. That’s supposed to be good and fair for the country, but naturally the politicos in DC itself have zero interest in what’s good for the country and are only motivated by what helps their party.

    Is anyone surprise any longer by the ‘ideas’ coming from the left???

    1. When the U.S. was founded, few people lived in the District of Columbia — more than an order of magnitude fewer than the least populous states.
      For example, in the 1790 census, the state with the smallest population (DE) had ~59,100 people, whereas DC had ~3,200 people.
      Today, DC has more residents than either of the two states with the smallest populations: DC has ~706K people, WY has ~579K, and VT ~624K.
      If DC became a state, there would still be a federal enclave that wouldn’t be part of the state, maintaining “a neutral location for the nation’s capital.”

      “the politicos in DC itself have zero interest in what’s good for the country and are only motivated by what helps their party.”
      That’s a lie.
      The Founders opposed taxation without representation. Why don’t you?

        1. Nonsense. A straw man involves attributing a position to you that isn’t yours and that you wouldn’t endorse, and then attacking that instead of your actual position. I didn’t do that.

          If you were referring to the question at the end, that’s not a straw man. Perhaps you meant that it’s a loaded question (which is a different fallacy)?

          If that’s what you’re referring to, all you have to say is “I do.” But in that case, you’d need to justify how you square claiming that you oppose taxation without representation while also claiming that “the politicos in DC itself have zero interest in what’s good for the country and are only motivated by what helps their party.” They’re taxed and they want voting representation in Congress.

          1. @CommitToDISHONESTDiscussion. Want to call it a loaded question? Fine by me. Loaded questions are based on presumptions that are knowingly incorrect. In other words, you are a liar.

            1. Your claim that “Loaded questions are based on presumptions that are knowingly incorrect” is false. Loaded questions assume an answer, but they aren’t “are based on presumptions that are knowingly incorrect.” Instead of calling me names, address the issue:
              You still haven’t explained how you square claiming that you oppose taxation without representation while also claiming that “the politicos in DC itself have zero interest in what’s good for the country and are only motivated by what helps their party.” They’re taxed and they want voting representation in Congress.

    2. A better idea might be to abolish DC, return the land to existing states, and scatter federal agencies throughout the 50 states (57 states if you are an Obama disciple).

      1. Young, I like that idea a lot. I would relocate the Natural Resource Conservation Service to California since they spend $3.5 billion a year and as best anyone can tell don’t actually do anything. A perfect fit! As for New York, it should get the Rural Electrification Administration, created to bring electrification and telephone service to rural areas. Since everybody in America has electricity and telephones, New York could increase its coffers by $1.8 billion and so long as they did not actually try anything could do no real harm. That leaves Oregon. There are so many choices left. I think the best fit would be the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. They could reformat Sesame Street to make it a daily reality show featuring state and local leaders as they show the rest of us how to deal with things such as homelessness. I hope your idea catches on.

  14. “Under my proposal, the mall and core federal buildings would remain the District of Columbia … but the remainder of the District retrocede back to Maryland (as did the other half of the original District to Virginia).”

    a) Retrocession cannot occur without the agreement of the Maryland state legislature, just as the Virginia legislature had to approve retrocession earlier. But the Maryland state legislature and the population of MD don’t support retrocession.
    b) MD and VA didn’t originally contribute equal amounts of land to DC, and the portion that retrocessed to VA was closer to 1/3 than 1/2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_retrocession#/media/File:Map_of_the_District_of_Columbia,_1835.jpg

    1. But the Maryland state legislature and the population of MD don’t support retrocession.

      Who has asked them?

  15. If portions of DC would become part of Maryland, would Maryland accept the increased debt? On the other hand Maryland might score big from the feds in state reparations payments to accept 700,000 new residents.

  16. The Pinkos have the bit between their teeth and are determined to cram their views down our throats with two more senators from DC.

    The Pinkos don’t lose well – witness their actions since 2016; if they win in 2020, we will see that they are even worse winners.

  17. DC should not be a state. Where would the capital be? Next to the White House? If you live there and don’t like it move to Puerto Rico.

      1. The Founders also put the provisions regarding DC into the Constitution.

        That aside, DC has an outsize complement of electoral votes and the DC delegate has an equal vote in committee. A committee vote is more consequential than a floor vote.

        1. Yes, “The Founders … put the provisions regarding DC into the Constitution,” and they also put provisions into the Constitution for amending the Constitution.

          Re: “DC has an outsize complement of electoral votes,” it has the same # as it would have if it were a state. It’s the same # as several states, two of which have smaller populations than DC. It’s not “an outsize complement.”

          “A committee vote is more consequential than a floor vote.”

          Your opinion, and states have both votes.

          1. Your opinion, and states have both votes.

            It’s not my opinion. Anyone remotely familiar with how Congress does business knows bloody well that it’s the committee vote that matters except in odd circumstances.

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