Attendants provide comments about cancelled cricket stadium, Palestine and DEI as one Mason professor reports receiving threatening voicemail


On April 2, a Board of Visitors public comment session was held as seven attendants spoke about the cancelled cricket stadium, Palestine and the BOV’s alleged political interference with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion including Mason’s Just Societies initiative.

One faculty member played a threatening voicemail she received to the floor relating to DEI, while another faculty member presented a petition which was signed by 250 faculty, students and community members towards the BOV’s influence over Mason curricula.

During the session, the Board of Visitors acknowledged the appointment of Visitor Farnaz Farkish Thompson by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, whose appointment is set to run until June 30, 2027.

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Deb Dickenson and Vice President for University Life Rose Pascarell presented the FY 2025 Financial Plan, proposing a 3% tuition increase for the fiscal years of 2025 and 2026. This follows a recent Tuition Town Hall hosted by Mason Student Government on Mar. 21.

“We still have very low tuition and that has been a concerted effort on the part of this leadership team. We continue to be very focused on that. We only raised tuition two times in five years, and that was done at a hardship to the university with the recognition of the funding inequities in state support,” Dickenson said.


Following the presentation, the meeting moved into the public comment session where seven people delivered comments to the floor. Each member was publicly named and identified on the livestream.

Vice President of Mason American Association of University Professors and Associate Professor Bethany Letiecq played a threatening voicemail she received on her work phone. This follows Letiecq’s publishing of a recent article in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which resulted in numerous threats and coverage from conservative outlets. Letiecq brought up the topic to the floor, claiming that it relates to the Board of Visitor’s conversations surrounding DEI.

“I am deeply troubled by the apparent alignment of some members of this board with agendas that perpetuate racism and sexism and foment targeted harassment of scholars under the guise of opposing DEI,” Letiecq said.

“The rights of faculty to teach and pursue knowledge without fear or favor are central to our democracy and must be protected.” Letiecq said.

Junior Liam Keen provided a comment about DEI and the Board of Visitors. “I discern an institution not guided by the principles of DEI, but by a legacy of conservatism. I do not witness a Board of Visitors… steeped in activism but a room occupied by Heritage Foundation staff, CEOs and shareholders,” Keen said.

Faculty member and PhD student Nicole Smith provided a comment about Mason’s Just Societies initiative. “I am deeply concerned with the undue influence of the Board of Visitors on the Just Societies classes… The classroom is an A and B conversation between the professors and students, and the board itself should see its way out of it.”

“These attempts of interference is not only a gross overreach from the board, it’s dangerous. All political interference from the board must halt and professors should be allowed to teach to the syllabus they have created.”

GMU AAUP President and Associate Professor Timothy Gibson presented a petition by the organization. “I’m speaking on behalf of over 250 faculty, students, staff, alumni and friends of Mason who have signed our petition. This petition calls on Mason’s Board of Visitors… to respect the experience and the expertise of the faculty and to affirm that Mason’s curriculum should be set by faculty experts, not political appointees on the board,” Gibson said.

“The proper role of the Board is to exert oversight over the president’s office and the administration regarding the financial and operational health of the University, and to champion the University and its faculty and students to the outside community,” Gibson said.


Mason alum and community member Brendan Brown provided a comment about Mason’s recent cancellation of the cricket stadium, claiming that there was a lack of transparency in the proposal. “Thank you for the decision to not move forward with the baseball-cricket stadium… We just wanted transparency. We asked for public meetings [and] opportunities to ask questions,” Brennan said. “It took fighting in the FOIA court… [and] going through E-Virginia receipts to find out what contracts had been signed. So, I ask the Board of Visitors to… correct this community relations disaster.”

President of Students For Justice in Palestine at Mason Jena Chanaa provided the final comment to the floor. “Today marks day 179 of the genocidal war on Gaza. 179 days of a nonstop bombing campaign against Palestinians, targeting their schools, their homes, their farmland, their businesses, their, universities, libraries, restaurants [and] most recently hospitals. 179 days of mass starvation, forced displacement, sexual violence, murder and execution of all Palestinians regardless of age, gender, religion or occupation,” Chanaa said.

“Numerous Mason students and community members have lost hundreds of family members in Gaza in the last six months. Our students are facing great losses every single day, forced to live through this nightmare, and forced to live with the knowledge that their own university is not doing anything to position themselves against the genocide that is actively causing this tragedy…”

“368 students, staff, faculty and Mason community members so far have signed a petition asking for the university to simply acknowledge this genocide…”

“Three university presidents across the United States have called for a cease-fire, most recently being President John J. DeGioia at Georgetown University just yesterday. I implore you to place George Mason on the correct side of history, do your part to support all students and community members affected by the genocide, and call for a cease-fire now… Thank you all, free Palestine,” Chanaa said.

The full livestream of the recent Board of Visitors session can be viewed on their Meeting Postings.