The GSEHD Executive Committee prepared the following statement regarding the hiring of Heather Swain, on behalf of and with input from GSEHD faculty and staff. Ms. Swain was hired as GW’s Vice President for Communications and Marketing, but shortly thereafter rescinded her acceptance of the position. This statement was shared with President LeBlanc on 10/31/2020.
November 9, 2020
As members of a community dedicated to education and human development, GSEHD is fundamentally committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive environment in which all students, staff, and faculty are treated with dignity and respect and have the opportunity to thrive. This includes creating a safe space for the many victims of sexual violence in our GW community and the other communities we serve as educators and researchers. In all of our interactions, we strive to incorporate GW’s Mission (n.d.), the GSEHD Dean’s Core Values (Feuer, n.d.), and the GSEHD Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion vision (GSEHD, n.d.), as well as rigorous professional standards. Trust and ethics are at the heart of our work.
The hiring of Heather Swain as the GW Vice President for Communications and Marketing violated GSEHD’s ethical standards and the trust of the students, partners, and communities we serve. During a meeting of GSEHD faculty and staff at the beginning of the academic year, many GSEHD members, including victims of sexual assault, expressed their disgust at the hiring of Heather Swain. This is because Swain participated in the “culture of anti-transparency” that impeded the investigation of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of female athletes at Michigan State University. The hiring of Heather Swain undermines our adherence to Title IX for our students and demonstrates a breach of trust and clear ethical disregard for students, staff, and faculty. By proceeding with this hire, GW compounds the original betrayal of the many victims of sexual abuse at Michigan State by adding another institution to that betrayal. Institutional betrayal is well researched and it potentially creates complexity in treating the developmental consequences of sexual violence.
The decision to hire Heather Swain also creates an atmosphere of fear and mistrust at GW and threatens the sense of safety we strive to promote and protect. We cannot and will not stand by silently when leaders in our GW administration make decisions that signal a lack of judgment and blatant disregard of the negative effects of those decisions on the well-being of victims of sexual violence and our broader GW community. GSEHD faculty and staff condemn the hiring of Heather Swain and demand more explanation and accountability to ensure this lack of leadership will not happen again.