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WVU's Gee facing no confidence vote next week

CHARLESTON — The Faculty Senate at West Virginia University is slated to vote against university leadership next week, including university President E. Gordon Gee. According to an agenda for the meeting scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Monday, the Faculty Senat

CHARLESTON — The Faculty Senate at West Virginia University is slated to vote against university leadership next week, including university President E. Gordon Gee.

According to an agenda for the meeting scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Monday, the Faculty Senate will consider a resolution expressing no confidence in Gee and WVU Provost Maryanne Reed.

The resolution lays out five criticisms of Gee and Reed, focused on a lack of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for students and staff, the administration’s hiring practices for senior staff, their academic reforms, a lack of consideration of academic qualifications for top-tier positions and other concerns.

University officials are staying quiet until next week’s meeting.

“We will wait until after Monday’s meeting to provide any response or statements,” April Kaull, WVU’s executive director of communications, said in a statement Thursday.

The WVU University Assembly, a rarely used campus organization consisting of all full-time faculty, voted in September 1,094 to 185 in favor of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and staff. The special meeting was called after a petition signed by more than 5 percent of faculty called for the special meeting.

According to the resolution, the faculty senates of both WVU and Marshall support vaccine mandates, and a vote of the WVU student body and Student Government Association also supported vaccine mandates by wide majorities.

“…The Gee-Reed administration has refused to institute a COVID vaccine mandate despite calls that they do so…even in the face of a record of thousands of members of the Mountaineer community testing positive for COVID 19 during the global pandemic and the fact that WVU already requires its students to be vaccinated against several illnesses” the resolution stated.

In an Aug. 23 statement after granting full approval for the Pfizer vaccines, WVU said that it would continue to encourage vaccines but would not mandate vaccines. During the Sept. 13 University Assembly meeting Rob Alsop, WVU vice president for strategic initiatives, told faculty he understood their concerns.

“I understand that some universities have mandated vaccines for their students, but we have to chart the correct path for WVU,” Alsop said. “We are constantly reviewing and looking at the data. There is not a dispute about the need for vaccines. The big question is…what is the most appropriate way for our institution to get as many people vaccinated as possible? We do not believe at this moment a mandate is the best strategy.”

According to WVU, 92.41 percent of faculty and staff at WVU’s Morgantown, Keyser and Beckley campuses are vaccinated as of Wednesday, with 82.15 percent of students being vaccinated.

The no confidence resolution also criticized Gee and Reed for how they carried out their Academic Transformation program, a review of WVU’s existing degrees and programs. Academic Transformation will help tailor degree programs for future needs while cutting costs.

“Post-pandemic, our university must come out stronger and smarter than we were when we were heading into the pandemic,” Gee said on Dec. 20, 2020. “The reality is we need to improve quality while we decrease costs. We need to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace and make WVU a destination institution.”

According to a report to the Faculty Senate on Nov. 8, Reed said the Academic Transformation program recommended 15 programs for discontinuance. The WVU Board of Governors approved that recommendation in October. Another 16 programs were identified for continuance with specific requirements and 18 programs were identified as “programs of opportunity.”

However, some members of the faculty have felt left out of the decision-making process.

“…The Gee-Reed administration has failed to carry out a transparent Academic Transformation process that avails itself of the expertise of the faculty, Chairs, and Directors, considers and respects professional norms, respects the administrative time and effort spent on these mandated tasks, references the full scope of disciplines associated with other R1 universities, or is centered within a larger framework that clearly communicates the future vision of the university, the efficient allocation of resources therein, and why programs that are eliminated are of especially limited value.”

The resolution also raises concerns about hiring practices at WVU, particularly when it comes to administration posts and other high-level positions at the university.

“…The Gee-Reed administration has failed to respect either professional norms or relevant academic qualifications and expertise when filling top-tier university positions leaving it in a weakened position to effectively carry out its mission with respect to poor communication and implementation of initiatives, damaging campus culture and morale, and inherently devaluing the credentials it is asking students to pay for

James Hoyer, the retired adjutant general for the West Virginia National Guard and the leader of the Gov. Jim Justice’s joint interagency task force for COVID-19 vaccines, was appointed as a vice president at WVU in January following his retirement. According to a press release, Hoyer was placed in charge of “start-up activities, job creation and the continued development of strategic partnerships at the University” in June.

Reed was promoted to provost and vice president of academic affairs at WVU in 2019 after serving 15 years as dean of the WVU Reed College of Media. Typically, provosts come from academic backgrounds, though Reed was a professional journalist before joining WVU. The resolution raises questions about hiring practices within the Provost’s Office and other offices.

“…The Gee-Reed administration has refused to engage in open, inclusive, systematic practices for hiring qualified candidates for its senior administrative team, including in units and positions that are as crucial for ensuring safe, respectful, and inclusive workplaces as the Provost’s Office, the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and campus president.”

Gee was hired as WVU president in 2014 after previously serving as university president from 1981 to 1985. He was previously president of Ohio State University from 2007 to 2013.

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