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WVU BOG gets timeline for search for new president; students say they want a vote

MORGANTOWN — WVU’s Board of Governors got an update on the search process for a new president on Friday and heard from a number of students who want more of a say in the process.

Current WVU President Gordon Gee will retire June 30, 2025. BOG member Patrice Harris, chair of the Ad Hoc Governance Committee guiding the search process, gave the update on selecting his successor.

“The selection of a president is a governing board’s most important responsibility, and the search process is the board’s best opportunity to help guide the institution into its successful new era,” she said.

She provided a planned timeline, noting dates may have to flex throughout the process.

Mai-Lyn Sadler speaks.

The proposed BOG rule to steer the process, Rule 1.3, was posted for public comment on March 19, she said; the public comment period ends April 18. Comments will be posted on or about April 25, along with an amended version of the rule based on the comments.

During the week of May 5, she said, the BOG will hold a special meeting to approve the final version of the rule, which will become effective on or about May 27.

The rule spells out that the BOG will conduct presidential searches via a committee-led process. The search committee will be a recommending body only, and the BOG must approve any recommendation. The committee will review the initial candidate pool, conduct initial interviews, participate in campus visits and recommend choices for final BOG interviews.

The rule also allows the BOG to hire a consultant or executive search firm to assist the search. On March 13, the BOG released a Request for Procurement proposal to engage a search firm. Proposals were due by Friday and the anticipated contract start date is this spring.

Harris said that during that week of May 27, BOG will hold another special meeting, this one to announce the search firm and endorse the members of the search committee.

In order to develop the desired characteristics for the new president, she said, WVU will solicit input from stakeholders through on-campus and statewide listening sessions, virtual and in-person. The sessions will occur in June through August and be conducted by search firm and the search committee.

There also will be an online survey for input from a broader audience, she said.

Then, on or before Sept. 1, with feedback from the sessions, a position spec will be developed, to be approved by the BOG.

During September to November, the search committee will screen and interview candidates. And by spring of 2025, the BOG will interview finalists and choose a new president — the 27th.

Rule 1.3 names stakeholder groups that will have representatives on the search committee: the BOG, faculty, staff and students. In addition, she said, the Ad Hoc Governance Committee will recommend representatives from these groups: deans, WVU Athletics, WVU Medicine, WVU Foundation, Alumni Association, a regional campus representative, and at-large members.

Over next three weeks, Harris said, the Ad Hoc Governance Committee will work with those constituent groups to develop a slate of nominees and make a recommendation to the BOG for endorsement at the late May meeting.

Students speak

The students who stood to speak called for essentially a pure democratic process in selecting the next president, rather than a representative process.

Mai-Lyn Sadler was vocal during the emotional Academic Transformation process and loudly disrupted the meeting where the BOG voted on the Academic Transformation program changes.

Sadler is running for a seat in the 100-member House of Delegates. She objected to the 17-member BOG voting on a new president. “I ask that for once, you all listen and give us a vote, give us a voice. … This is not an oligarchy, is it?”

Sadler and others recalled the — still healing — wounds and bruises of the Academic Transformation process and reiterated the belief that the administration and BOG didn’t listen to the campus community.

Now, with Rule 1.3, said Miles Case, “What I’m calling for is for us to actually have that voice.” He presented a petition with 200 signatures conveying that request.

Other speakers got more specific. Christian Rowe, a member of West Virginia United Students’ Union and West Virginia Campus Workers, said the BOG should reconsider its position as the sole voting body.

He praised Harris for advocating that the WVU community should be collaboratively involved in the search process. But “I’m still dissatisfied that at the end of the day the board will be the only people with the actual power to succeed President Gee.”

The next president will have to navigate difficult financial waters and they want a new vision — not profits for WVU and tuition hikes for majors that don’t align with their passions, he said. “Our next president must be able to think outside this market-based mindset. … Your paychecks and educations are not tied to WVU’s next president. Ours are.”

And Matthew Kolb also spoke for the Students’ Union. “There’s a lot of missing trust in our community right now.”

All employees and students of the university community should have a vote, not just the BOG, he said. Representation on the search committee is good, but not enough. Those few representatives won’t truly represent their constituents.

BOG chair Taunja Willis-Miller thanked the students for their comments and invited them to avail themselves of all the input opportunities that will be provided.


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