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Gee: Groups to address issues of discrimination on campus

During Friday’s West Virginia University Board of Governors meeting, President Gordon Gee discussed plans to create a more inclusive campus.
This comes after a petition signed by hundreds demanding change for the university’s black community was released Wednesday. The petition made nine specific demands to university leaders. Among the demands are mandatory anti-racism and diversity training for students, faculty and staff; a revised Campus Student Conduct Code and Employee Code of Conduct; and budget initiatives to promote the development of black student leadership.

“I know we have the opportunity, and we must do better to show appreciation for our black students, faculty, staff, alumni and certainly our community members,” Gee said.

He said he plans to implement teams to address issues of discrimination and inequality within the campus community. He said these groups will work to contribute recommendations as to how the university can be more inclusive.

The WVU Center for Black Culture and Research plans to co-chair a working group, and the initiatives will include anti-racism education and recruitment strategies for students of color. Meshea Poore, vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will co-chair another team.
Dining changes
The BOG also approved plans for a Sodexo Capital project to upgrade and build new dining establishments on the university’s campus during its Friday meeting.

Rob Alsop, WVU vice president for strategic initiatives, said plans for new dining options include moving a Starbucks into the first floor of University Place Apartments and replacing one of the current dining options inside the Mountainlair with a Panda Express. Alsop said the estimated cost of construction will exceed $1 million.
Tuition and budget

The board approved the 2020-21 fiscal year budget and university tuition and fees. Alsop said employees who were furloughed due to COVID-19 will begin returning through July and August.

“We really worked hard on crafting an FY 2020 budget that will allow us to meet the needs of our students and value our employees,” Alsop said.

He added that, as of now, there are no requirements for any unpaid furloughs or pay reductions. He said as August approaches, the board may revisit these topics, depending on the university’s revenue status.

DOH, WVU projects
Because of the rockslide that left multiple people injured on Feb. 10, WVU and the Division of Highways are planning to build barriers to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. This includes reinforcing rocks on top of the hill and installing netting or fencing along the lower part of the hill.

The board approved these projects, which are estimated to cost between $2.5-$3 million.

Reopening plans
WVU Provost Maryanne Reed also revisited the university’s reopening plans, which include canceling fall break and moving courses online following Thanksgiving break, in order to reduce travel.

The university also plans to reduce some course and lab density by 50%, and move some courses online or to a hybrid format that combines in-person and online formats. Reed said the university plans to improve Wifi speeds on-campus to ensure courses can be live-streamed when necessary, and webcams can be provided.

International students unable to return to campus will be given the option to complete their courses online.

Personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing will also be provided to students by the university, which Paula Congelio said is estimated to cost about $5 million.

By Gabriella Brown
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