Around the Novahood


Professors at George Mason University in Fairfax are expressing solidarity with the custodial workers, who say that they were exposed to poor working conditions and have faced retribution for trying to organize. More than 220 people have signed a resolution by GMU’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors supporting the efforts of the workers. The resolution also called on the university to adopt a responsible contractor policy and to ensure that workers have appropriate and sufficient personal protective equipment to carry out their jobs.

Service Employees International Union filed a complaint last August on behalf of the janitors at the school, alleging that they have been targeted with “surveillance and interrogations about potential union activity by their employer, H&E Cleaning in Manassas,” according to the Associated Press. [See VoxFairfax, Around the Novahood, Aug. 31, 2020;]

The union settled the claim in January, as well as another complaint filed in November alleging “intimidation and harassment, intimidating workers, sabotaging work areas, making false accusations of theft, physically shoving a worker, and slow-walking a worker’s paycheck,” Bloomberg Law reported. The university president said in a statement last month that GMU has conducted an initial review of the complaints against contractor L.T. Services and its subcontractors. He called the accusations “troubling.”

GMU-AAUP said that the workers are “paid less than $15 per hour, have no or few benefits, and are disproportionately people of color and immigrant.” “These workers are essential, valued, and co-equal members of the GMU community,” the resolution said. The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, an organization that represents trade unionists, also supported the efforts of the custodial workers, saying that the work they do is essential to the university and the country.

Are the unseen finally being seen? Cafeteria workers next?


A religious order of Catholic priests has pledged $100 million in reparations to the descendants of people whom they owned as slaves during the early decades of the American republic. The announcement by leaders of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States is one of the largest initiatives of its kind by any institution, and the largest reported thus far. The order has committed to raising the full sum in three to five years, with $15 million aleady deposited in a trust.

The total to be raised by the Jesuits will eventually fund the newly created Descendants Truth & Reconciliation Foundation, which was established in partnership with a group of descendants. According to the president of the Jesuit Conference, this is the beginning of “a very serious process of truth and reconciliation.” He called the history of Jesuit slaveholdings “shameful.” 

For more than a century, Jesuits used and sold slave labor to finance the construction and day-to-day operations of churches and schools, notably including Georgetown University — where two Jesuit priests, who presided over the university in 1838, sold 272 enslaved men, women and children to Louisiana plantation owners in order to keep the school afloat.

The Jesuit example creates a model for others to emulate. It takes a willingness to admit shame.


The Loudoun County School Board has censured Leesburg representative Beth Barts for social media posts “deemed to expose elements of the board’s private deliberations and to spread misinformation.” The censure motion cited her for “failing to put student interests first, … fail[ing] to show respect for fellow board members and staff in the spirit of harmony and cooperation, … fail[ing] to welcome and encourage active cooperation of Loudoun County residents and the district, …. and fail[ing] to work in the spirit of teamwork in service to the community…. And that this board does not condone the behavior of School Board member Beth Barts and does hereby publicly censure her.”

The vote was 7-0, with two members absent, including Barts. According to the Board chair, “This is a response to a culmination of behaviors over the last 14 months, from the beginning of this term until today.”

According to other Board members, Barts’ conduct included violating attorney-client confidentiality, threatening to call misleading press conferences, and creating chaos. The Board vice chairman said, “Ms. Barts, your repeated violation of the Code of Conduct has made it impossible, not only for all of us, your colleagues, to do our best job, but it impacts the staff’s ability to take care of our students. It saddens me deeply that you’ve gone back on your promise to stop this. As you know this has nothing to do with transparency or your social media. The censure has only to do with your own misconduct,” she said.

Barts responded, “It’s not my job to be liked. It’s my job to ask hard questions, work to provide the best education for our kids, make sure our teachers are paid what they really deserve and represent the people of Leesburg.” 

Hard to do when you can’t get along with your colleagues.


A proposed indoor winter wonderland might be heading to a shuttered landfill in Lorton, Virginia. Alpine-X, a Virginia-based company, has submitted a proposal to build a 450,000 square foot indoor snow sports facility that would include a 1,700-foot ski slope. The recreational facility, which is still just a proposal, has been dubbed “Fairfax Peak.” 

The indoor slope would be the longest in North America and one of the longest in the world—rising to an altitude of about 280 feet, according to a press release from the county. Fairfax Peak could also include multiple competition-ready ski slopes and a bunny slope, a restaurant, a luxury hotel, and a gondola, along with a place for skiers and snowboarders to shred and practice some gnarly tricks.

The proposed site of the facility is Fairfax County’s I-95 landfill in Lorton. The first phase of construction on Fairfax Peak could take between 3 and 4 years—and that wouldn’t begin until after an approval process that includes community input and formal hearings.

Wild and Wonderful . . . Lorton!






Categories: AROUND THE NOVAHOOD, EDUCATION, FREE SPEECH, HIGHER EDUCATION, Issues, labor and unions, Local, National, politics, State

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