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WVU Faculty Senate votes down “no confidence” resolution

The West Virginia University Faculty Senate voted down a resolution of no confidence in the university’s administration Monday afternoon, 103 to 20.

Almost all of the two-hour meeting was dedicated to the resolution of no confidence, despite it being just one of six items on the day’s agenda. After about an hour of deliberation, the meeting was suspended for about 45 minutes to allow senators to consider the resolution and vote.

Senators attending remotely via Zoom asked if the vote would be anonymous. Faculty Senate Chair Ashley Martucci explained that in order to verify that those voting remotely were in fact senators, the votes would not be anonymous and would be viewed by senate officers.

“Given that it isn’t (anonymous), that might affect the outcome of a vote, which has been based on speaking with constituents. I am not voting on my behalf, but my name will be attached to something that my constituents are asking me to vote on. And I am untenured. And that makes me feel really uncomfortable,” said assistant professor of English Rose Casey. 

Associate professor of political science Scott Crichlow presented the resolution, and afterwards immediately moved to strike the first paragraph, which listed the administration’s refusal to institute a vaccine mandate.

The resolution specifically named President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed.

“This is mostly meant to be a resolution about shared governance,” Crichlow said.

Shared governance refers to systems and procedures that allow stakeholders in an institution – such as faculty and staff members – to take part in decision-making and policy development.

One senator asked why — if the central issue was shared governance — the resolution had not been presented to the senate’s committee on shared governance first.

“I was appointed chair of the governance committee over the summer, and unfortunately, I’ve not been able to get it up and running,” assistant professor David Hauser said, saying he hoped to get the committee moving over the winter break. 

Crichlow cited the focus of news coverage on COVID-19 as the reason to remove the first paragraph and refocus the discussion.

“While that is certainly a matter of concern to many at the university, that is not the overriding issue of the resolution,” he said.

During its Sept. 17 meeting, the university’s Board of Governors indicated support of the administration’s handling of COVID-19 issues on campus. That support was reiterated, along with broader endorsements, in a statement released by board chair Tom Jones Monday evening.

“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,” the statement read, in part.

Another issue brought forth in the resolution alleged Gee’s administration has eliminated programs and combined schools without adequate explanation. It also alleged the administration isn’t transparent when hiring qualified candidates for its senior administrative team.

Both Gee and Reed were given opportunities to speak. Both focused their comments on the growth the school has seen in recent years, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I understand that change is hard, but it is necessary. If we do not change, we will not survive. It is that simple. And I’m here to make this better, you are here to make us better. Shared governance is about all of us sharing in responsibility,” Gee said.

The Faculty Senate will meet again Jan. 10.

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