BY MIKE NOLTING
State lawmakers are reacting following the ‘no confidence’ vote by the West Virginia University Faculty Assembly.
The assembly voted 797 to 100 Wednesday afternoon in favor of the resolution. It now goes to the WVU Board of Governors for consideration. The BOG issued a statement after the vote that said Gee still has its full support.
Gee has the support of both Gov. Jim Justice and state Senate President Craig Blair.
“Let me just tell you this: I do have a lot of confidence in Gordon Gee, and I’ve got absolute confidence in our Board of Governors and university, and we’ll get it right,” Justice said during his Wednesday media briefing.
Justice appoints the majority of the members to the Board of Governors.
Blair also voiced his support for Gee during a Thursday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” going a step further in crediting Gee with avoiding an even greater financial calamity or even failure. Blair said the Academic Transformation will help WVU in the new funding formula, which rewards higher education institutions for creating programs that will provide workforce-ready graduates.
“He’s doing a service for WVU right now because if you wouldn’t do this and kick the can down the road, you could end up with another Alderson-Broaddus situation or something like that,” Blair said. “He’s being proactive, not reactive, and taking care of business for the students and the people of West Virginia.”
Alderson-Broaddus University, a private school in Philippi, closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy last month.
Blair likened the current situation at WVU to the budget crunch of 2018 when lawmakers debated tax increases and budget cuts to bridge a major budget gap. After a thorough review, that budget included no tax increases, $85 million less spending than the year before, and resulted in a surplus the next year.
“Gordon Gee and the BOG up there are doing just that — they’re reevaluating like we did back in 2018 when we had a $450 million shortfall,” Blair said. “Now, look how we turned it around.”
Blair said Gee helped win $50 million in state funding for care and research at the WVU Cancer Center, which ultimately became the 73rd cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute in the United States.
“I do believe Gordon Gee has been a great president and a great man for the state of West Virginia, and I believe wholeheartedly he wants to do more goodness for us,” Justice said.
The job market has changed in the last five years and continues to evolve. In today’s job market, many high-demand jobs only require a two-year degree and a certification, something not offered at WVU currently. Blair said the university can better position itself in this job landscape by scrapping programs that create thousands in student loan debt for degrees that create jobs with incomes families can live on.
“The world is changing around us, and we must adapt; a two-year degree with a certification can actually generate more revenue,” Blair said. “You’ve got to pay the student down; that is important, and you have to have a job to do that afterwards.”