West Virginia University’s Board of Governors Approves Program, Staff Cuts

Despite protests, demands for an independent audit, and a vote of no confidence in the university’s president, WVU will move forward with program cuts and layoffs.
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Jessica Bryant is a higher education analyst and senior data reporter for BestColleges. She covers higher education trends and data, focusing on issues impacting underserved students. She has a BA in journalism and previously worked with the South Fl...
Published on September 20, 2023
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  • Last month, West Virginia University proposed eliminating 32 majors and reducing 7% of its faculty to combat budget shortfalls.
  • Proposed eliminations were met with immediate outrage, leading to a vote of no confidence in university President E. Gordon Gee.
  • On Friday, the university's Board of Governors approved eliminations with few amendments to the proposals.

West Virginia University (WVU) will move forward with its controversial program cuts following an approval vote by the institution's Board of Governors (BOG).

Last Friday, the board approved the elimination of 28 degrees, or roughly 8% of the institution's offerings, and 143 faculty positions.

"We will do everything we can to support those who will be displaced as a result of this process," said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed in a press release. "These are not just numbers or percentages to us — but individuals who have contributed to our community and who have made their lives here."

WVU initially announced proposed eliminations last month due to a $45 million budget deficit. At the time, the institution was considering the discontinuation of 32 majors — including the removal of its entire world languages department — and the reduction of 7% of its faculty.

The announcement was immediately met with backlash, leading the campus community to stage a protest and demand that an independent audit of the institution's finances be conducted before any final decisions are made.

Though calls for an audit went unheard, WVU later amended its proposal to no longer eliminate world languages in its entirety, instead choosing to offer language courses in Spanish and Chinese as electives or minors.

WVU students and faculty remained outraged, leading faculty senators to issue an overwhelming vote of no confidence in President E. Gordon Gee at a Sept. 6 meeting.

During the meeting they argued that "poor planning, faulty decision-making, and financial mismanagement on the administration's own part" helped create the budget shortfall.

Friday's BOG meeting was met with further outcry from students and faculty urging the board to halt program cuts.

After the approval went through, students continued to share their opposition and further cited President Gee — and his lifestyle — as the cause of the deficit.

"This is the story of undemocratic university leadership and mismanagement, but above all, it is a story of class," wrote Robin Oliverio, a WVU Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience, on Medium following the decision. "One wealthy man has made poor decisions and low-income West Virginians are to face his consequences."

WVU faculty began being notified if they are being laid off on Sept. 18.