MORGANTOWN – WVU administrators provided updates on Wednesday on the academic RIF process and on the assessments of the Strategic Initiatives units and the Office of General Counsel.
The updates were offered during an online Campus Conversation.
President Gordon Gee opened the conversation with some comments on the Academic Transformation process and the resulting cuts to majors and faculty positions – 28 undergraduate and graduate/professional programs, 143 positions – approved by the Board of Governors and announced last Friday.
WVU leadership and the BOG did read and listen to the comments opposing the cuts, he said. “Without a doubt there was great passion.” But the changes are necessary. “We either are going to be the architects of our future or we will be victimized by it.”
WVU General Counsel Stephanie Taylor said the provost’s office will work with the various deans to create a RIF – reduction in force – plan, which will determine who will stay and who will be RIF’d or receive notification of contract ending.
The provost and deans will also review classified and non-classified staff positions for potential eliminations – which is separate from the transformation cuts, she said.
The University RIF Committee – with representatives from the provost’s office, Strategic Initiatives and Employee Relations will review and approve finalized RIF plans, she said.
RIF and nonrenewal notifications went out Monday, Taylor said. Faculty must return Affirmation Forms by Sept. 30.
These forms are required from faculty who wish to be considered for retention or to participate in a teach-out, Associate Provost Tracy Morris explained. These forms will indicate if the program changes will result in a changed workload for those who remain.
Failure to return the form or to agree to workload change will result in automatic placement on the RIF or non-renewal list. Completing the form doesn’t guarantee retention, she said. Resignations and retirements will count toward planned reductions in a department.
Continuing on the timeline, Taylor said RIF plans will be finalized and reviewed Oct. 3-15. For those to be cut, an individual meeting will be held no later than Oct. 16. Due process hearings will be held the week of Oct. 23 and results will be announced Oct. 30. Dec. 1 is the deadline to sign and return a severance agreement.
During the program review process, WVU administration has taken criticism for not undertaking its own cuts – for instance, taking symbolic salary reductions. A Wednesday post on X (formerly Twitter) by West Virginia Campus Workers repeated that criticism in a post listing some top salaries and accusing those leaders of being part of the problem.
During Wednesday’s Campus Conversation, Rob Alsop, vice president for Strategic Initiatives, described changes going on in his office and the general counsel’s.
He described some reorganization that’s occurred snce 2014 to achieve some efficiencies and cost savings – though he didn’t provide a dollar figure. Currently, they are doing such things as restructuring the units within Talent and Culture and revising the internal human resources policies and the procurement manual, and creating a new budget model to take effect for next fiscal year.
To best implement the WVU Modernization Program, he said, WVU needs to undertake a comprehensive review of administrative functions and processes for better responsiveness and efficiency.
Since 2018, he said, his office has reduced positions and budget. For instance, comparing FY 2018 to FY 2024, Auxiliary and Business Services has reduced its budget from $56.7 million to $51.2 million and is down 78 positions (10%); Information Technology Services has reduced its expenses from $10.3 million to $6.7 million and is down 24 positions (10%) .
Only University Police has increased its budget faster than inflation to match competing salary levels and invest in new technology, but is down by three positions.
His office and the general counsel’s he said, will report on progress to the BOG in January. But many initiatives will take several fiscal years to implement.
During the question-and-answer portion of the conversation, Alsop took a question on the idea of raising tuition to make up the $45 million current shortfall, instead of undertaking the program and faculty cuts.
He said they looked at that and it would have required a minimum 14% to 15% increase. Also, WVU and higher education in the state has taken some across-the-board cuts in past years, and had they not decided to be selective in cuts they would have to see more across-the-board cuts and starving every unit.
“I think that type of decision … would have been a significant negative threat to the institution going forward,” he said. With increased expenses and decreased enrollment, some level of transformation or cuts to get to the $45 million would have been required.