Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Sept. 1 letters to the editor – WVU Academic Transformation

EDITOR’S NOTE: LTTEs regarding WVU Academic Transformation

OUT-OF-STATE SUBMISSIONS regarding WVU’s Academic Transformation are now CLOSED. However, we will still accept letters related to the transition from writers in our coverage area (Mon and Preston counties) under the standard letter to the editor guidelines. EMAIL submissions to opinion@dominionpost.com. MAIL submissions to: The Dominion Post, 1251 Earl L. Core Road, Morgantown, WV 26505. INCLUDE your name, hometown and phone number for confirmation. Letters should not exceed 300 words.

‘Transformation’ is Gee’s neutron bomb

I am a WVU grad (B.S. in math, 1973) who was a WVU faculty member for 40 years in mathematics and statistics (1977-2017).

The best part of my undergraduate degree was interacting with research faculty in math courses and seminars. If the graduate program in math is eliminated, research faculty won’t be available to mentor undergraduates or provide expertise for other departments and programs.

They are calling it “Academic Transformation,” but it is really President Gee’s neutron bomb, designed to eliminate people but leave buildings untouched. The university aims to cull tens of millions of dollars in people and preserve hundreds of millions of dollars in overbuilt facilities.

Units participating in the transformation by preparing self-studies and appeals are forced to accept the premise that cuts are necessary. The administration’s criteria and metrics are not to be challenged, under threat of even more severe cuts. The administration hid behind rpk Group for its initial recommendations and now serves as judge and jury as programs try to defend their existence. It smells like the fix is in.

Michael Mays

Can’t be a world-class engineer without math

I am devastated by the proposed program cuts at West Virginia University. WVU has spent the last few years focusing on the importance of its mission as a land-grant institution. I don’t know how any land-grant institution can faithfully follow that mission while actively cutting the graduate mathematics program and cutting most of the foreign language department.

I graduated from WVU in May 2021. I was one of WVU’s outstanding seniors, and I graduated with two bachelors’ degrees in four years: computer engineering and mathematics. I spent three years as a Statler Ambassador, encouraging students to come to WVU to study engineering. I loved talking about WVU to prospective students, because I knew that WVU gave West Virginians the chance to become world-class engineers while staying in West Virginia.

I fear the recent cuts will drive even more young West Virginians to leave the state. Without a graduate mathematics program, WVU ­engineering students will not have as strong of a mathematics foundation, because graduate mathematics students teach many of the foundational math courses for engineering students. Without these graduate students, math classes could double in size. Larger class sizes will make it hard for students to get individualized help when needed.  It’s nearly impossible to be a world-class engineer without a basic math foundation, regardless of what engineering discipline you study.

West Virginians deserve to have access to high quality education without leaving West Virginia. A strong graduate mathematics program is the backbone for a strong engineering program. A strong foreign language department is necessary for any well-rounded liberal arts education.

I hope that WVU will keep these programs available to students, otherwise the already overwhelming brain drain in the state will only continue.

Jessica (Hammersla) Bewley

Languages help math professor succeed

I have important words to say about the crisis at WVU. I taught mathematics at WVU for 49 years. I was one of the professors responsible for setting up the math Ph.D. program, awarding our first Ph.D. in 1993. We have awarded dozens since then. All graduates have done well and found good positions.

In 1958, when I joined the faculty, WVU had only three Ph.D. programs. Lack of a math Ph.D. program made it hard to recruit faculty to come here to teach.

I studied written and spoken Chinese and linguistics at WVU. This helped me in my career as an internationally recognized mathematician, publishing hundreds of papers in 24 countries, including China, Serbia and Turkey. My mother was a teacher, and her advice to me when I was a child: To understand the world and its people, learn their languages.

Languages and mathematics are cornerstones of liberal arts education. Do not cut them.

My late wife, Jean, studied Spanish and humanities at WVU. Later in life, she received her B.A. in art and her B.F.A. in sculpture at WVU.

I am horrified that Gee and others want to make drastic cuts in our language and mathematics programs. WVU should not be turned into a Vo Tech trade school. The basic liberal arts should be emphasized.

What President Gee and others are doing will harm WVU and the state of West Virginia. Gee should implore the Legislature to allocate some of their millions of excess funds to save WVU. It seems that Gee is being a very bad man here as he was at other universities.

My great-grandmother was a Gee. I descend from the colonial Virginia Gee family, and it really hurts to have a Gee at WVU doing what E. Gordon Gee is doing. Gee should resign or be fired.

Henry W. Gould
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics