MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University’s Faculty Senate met Monday afternoon, both in-person and virtually, voting down a resolution that called for a “no-confidence” vote in the university’s administration, headed by President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed.
The call for the no-confidence vote was initially based on what authors of the resolution said was the administration’s refusal to institute a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, after large majorities of the university’s faculty, student body and student government association all voted in favor of the mandate.
It also accused the Gee-Reed administration, in part, of refusing “to engage in open, inclusive, systematic practices for hiring qualified candidates for its senior administrative team” and went on to say that the administration “has failed to carry out a transparent academic transformation process.” The resolution ended by saying that Gee and Reed have “failed to respect either professional norms or relevant academic qualifications and expertise when filling top-tier university positions.”
The full original resolution can be read here.
At Monday’s meeting, Political Science Prof. Scott Crichlow, who introduced the resolution, quickly moved to amend it to remove mention of COVID-19 vaccination mandates, putting the focus on issues with “shared governance,” and making the vote “simpler,” he explained. The COVID issue was taking the focus off, “where the discussion needs to be,” he said. Crichlow mentioned Gee appointing a provost for the second time without consulting the faculty, as one of his concerns. Overall, the resolution was “meant to be an attempt to restore shared governance” at WVU, Crichlow said in conclusion.
A motion was then made to table the resolution and move discussion to the Faculty Assembly. That motion failed. Another motion was made to table it until the Faculty Senate’s January meeting, but it did not receive a second.
Several faculty members spoke against the resolution, saying that they did not feel the issues at hand met the level of concern for such a vote.
President Gee spoke at the meeting, saying that the “institution represents hope” to the state. Gee then listed several ways he believes his administration has improved WVU:
- Changed cultural,
- Moved WVU “aggressively into R1 status”
- Got more external funding this year than ever before
- $1.3 billion in fundraising
- Improved retention and graduation rates
- hired a lot of talent
“I’m here to make us better,” Gee said. Gee also defended his decision of to hire Reed as Provost, explaining that she had broad support around campus.
Provost Reed also spoke, saying there are “far more productive ways” for the faculty share its concerns than through the resolution. The administration is interested in hearing faculty concerns and Reed and Gee have “open door” policies, she said, challenging the faculty to also serve as leaders in improving the university.
A list of faculty concerns were not given to Gee and Reed prior to the call for the resolution, they both said.
Several faculty senators expressed concern that the vote on the resolution was not anonymous, with one senator, who is not tenured, suggesting that those in favor of it may be hesitant to publicly voice their support.
The resolution failed on a 103-20 vote.
Following the vote, WVU Board of Governors’ Chair Tom Jones issued a statement:
The West Virginia University Board of Governors appreciates the faculty members who shared their perspectives at today’s Faculty Senate meeting regarding shared governance and the effectiveness of our University leadership.
The Board of Governors unequivocally supports the leadership of President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed. Their commitment, as well as the commitment of the entire administrative team, has enabled our University to navigate a global pandemic while preserving academic quality, maintaining financial stability, and protecting the health and safety of our campus community.
We also have the utmost confidence in the leadership qualities and vision of President Gee. The Board of Governors must position our University for success beyond this pandemic. It is critical that we begin to take action now. The charges we have requested for academic transformation, as well as other transformations within the University, are not easy – but they are necessary. It is critical that this University remains relevant and positioned for achievement in the future. We need leaders who have the will to lead that change. President Gee is that leader.
Though we are disappointed that this amended resolution was brought forward, it does present an opportunity for the University to come together and refrain from creating further division. Let us use this moment for improved communication and productive dialogue on critical issues. We urge the University administration and the faculty to have those necessary conversations so that we may focus collectively on our highest priority of educating our students and serving the people of West Virginia.Tom Jones
Chair, WVU Board of Governors
Earlier in the day West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair issued a statement in support of Gee:
During the nearly eight years that President Gee has served West Virginia University, he has proven to be the kind of leader who understands the role that the state’s flagship university plays in building a better state for all West Virginians. He has shown that he does not see a university as a think tank isolated from the state around it. He sees the university as a dynamic part of every community it serves, and has aggressively pursued every opportunity to grow its footprint.
We believe Dr. Gee is a leader who cares deeply about the students and faculty he serves and respects their abilities as adults to make their own decisions regarding their health and safety.
Further, we believe Dr. Gee understands the nature of higher education is evolving and that universities must evolve with it. As the needs of higher education change, Dr. Gee has continued to expand the college’s offerings and opportunities to maintain its designation as a premier, R1-rated research institution. This is the kind of leadership that we expect at West Virginia’s flagship university, and Dr. Gee has delivered it.
While the nature of uncertain times and continuous change are troubling to many, the greatest asset an institution can have during those times is reliable, compassionate, capable leadership. We believe that is what West Virginia University is fortunate to have in Dr. Gee and his leadership team, and we stand fully beside them as friends and partners as they continue to lead West Virginia into the future.
Therefore, we, the West Virginia Senate Majority Party unanimously stand strong in our support of Dr. Gee’s leadership of West Virginia University.WV Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley