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WVU students petition, plan walkouts against proposed cutbacks

Students at West Virginia University are speaking out against the proposed program cutbacks announced by university leaders last week.

The proposed cutbacks would discontinue 32 of 338 Morgantown campus majors and potentially eliminate 169 faculty positions.

A petition titled “WVU STUDENTS – Oppose Gee’s unfair changes and hold him accountable for failures” that was started on Aug. 11 by WVU sophomore Miles Case aims to show support for WVU students and faculty, raise awareness of the school’s budget issues and those responsible and demand action be taken.

“Due to a lack of preparation, transparency, and accountability by WVU President Gordon Gee, the Board of Governors, and other members of the administration, the school’s budget deficit has been widened to $35 million for the 2024 fiscal year and is projected to grow to $75 million over the next five years,” the petition states. “It is critical that we as concerned students of WVU have our voices heard before its effects get even worse.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition was approaching 1,200 signatures and continues to rise. The Dominion Post attempted to contact Case for further comment on the petition but did not receive a response by press time.

Students are also planning a walkout on Monday, Aug. 21, at noon, to oppose program cuts and to show support for the faculty and staff who may lose their jobs in the potential mass layoff.

According to a press release from walkout organizers with The West Virginia United Students’ Union – a union of student organizations fighting to consolidate and strategically direct student power at WVU – there will be two locations in Morgantown where students will convene for rallies during the walkout.

On the downtown campus, students will rally at the free speech zone in front of the Mountainlair. On the Evansdale campus, the rally will be held at the recreation fields next to the Student Recreation Center across from Towers dormitory.

According to the release, the rallies are not limited to students, and all are welcome to participate. Those who plan to participate are encouraged to bring signs or petitions and wear red to show solidarity with faculty and staff.

Student demands laid out in the press release regarding the walkout include:

No program reductions or discontinuations.

No reductions in force.

An independent audit of university finances.

Cut wasteful administrative spending.

Reduce the salary of university administrators.

An investigation into university administrators and the Board of Governors.

Increased state investment in higher education.

The Dominion Post reached out to WVU officials for comment on the student petition and rallies surrounding Friday’s proposal and if their concerns would be taken into consideration.

“Our students are at the heart of the decisions we’re making. They have been telling us what they want through the majors and programs they’re enrolling in, and importantly those they are not, and we are responding. That data factors heavily into preliminary recommendations announced last week,” Executive Director of Communications, April Kaull responded.

“Fewer than 2% of students would potentially be affected by the review, and working with our advisors, every student still has a pathway to reach their academic goals here at West Virginia University.”

University officials encourage those with questions or concerns to join an information session for students and families hosted by the Division of Student Life and the Mountaineer Parents Club which will be held via Zoom at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17.