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WVU Board of Governors approves rule to guide search for new president

MORGANTOWN — WVU’s Board of Governors approved the new rule to guide the search for a new president during a special meeting on Monday.

The final rule included some changes prompted by public comments submitted, Assistant General Counsel Kylie Barnhart told the members.

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.

Barnhart told the members that they received 36 comments — most of them on a few common themes.

Several echoed comments made during the April 12 regular BOG meeting — that some people want a more democratic search and selection process. One comment said, “The search committee is set up as an impotent entity & the Board is given far too much power to ignore the faculty, staff, and students.”

The response to that and similar comments was that state code requires governing boards to appoint presidents and determine their employment conditions, conduct presidential searches and determine their compensation.

“The West Virginia Code has invested these duties and responsibilities with the governing body, not other groups or entities,” the response said. “The WVU Board of Governors has not given itself any new authority; rather, it is exercising upon the authority previously given to it under West Virginia law.”

But the rule was amended to make that clear, but allow for more campus community input: “In accordance with the West Virginia Code, the Board shall select the president of West Virginia University, and the selection must be approved by a majority vote of the board. … The board shall solicit nominations for the search committee membership from faculty, staff, and student constituency groups. … Feedback from members of the university community shall be solicited in determining the characteristics sought in the new president.”

Another change addressed the proposed rule allowing the BOG to bring in additional candidates anytime during the search process. One commenter noted, “In particular the ability to add candidates of their own is problematic. Why have a search committee at all?”

In response, the final rule says that the BOG may suggest additional candidates during the process, but they must be reviewed by the search committee.

Some commenters wanted broader representation on the search committee, and a representative from the Alumni Association was included. The committee will include members from these groups: BOG, faculty, classified staff, students, deans, WVU Athletics, WVU Medicine, WVU Foundation, WVU Alumni Association, regional campuses, at-large member(s).

Another change came at the instigation of board members. The proposed rule said, “The board chair may dismiss from the search committee any search committee member if there is evidence that the member has breached confidentiality.”

The BOG voted to change the word “may” to “shall.”

The rule will become effective in 15 business days, Barnhart told the members.

Another special BOG meeting is set for May 29, BOG chair Taunja Willis-Miller told the members, to announce the search firm and endorse the members of the search committee.

A slate of committee nominees is being developed now, WVU said in a release.

Current WVU President Gordon Gee will retire June 30, 2025.


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