The faculty of West Virginia University approved a symbolic motion expressing no confidence in President E. Gordon Gee amid multimillion budget cuts.
As a result of declining enrollment, increased construction-related debt, and COVID-19-era revenue losses, WVU has to cut $45 million dollar from its budget.
The no-confidence vote symbolizes the faculty’s collective opinion. A 25% quorum, the equivalent of 700 faculty members, had to be present for the vote. The measure passed 797-100.
The resolution alleges Gee and his administration contributed to the budget issues through poor planning, faulty decision making and financial mismanagement. It also questions Gee’s “ability to responsibly, honestly and effectively lead, facilitate and participate in decision making,” per The Toronto Star.
WVU administrators released their preliminary recommendations on how to meet the needed budget cut on Aug. 11. The recommendations are scheduled to be presented to the school’s Board of Governors between Sept. 14-15.
Proposed changes include eliminating the doctoral and master’s degree programs in mathematics, offering only in-person instruction in Spanish and Chinese while eliminating other international language courses, and merging the university’s puppetry program into a cooperative theater offering.
WVU’s puppetry course is just one of two in the nation and the preliminary suggestion to eliminate the program was not appealed.
Administrators “initially proposed eliminating 32 of 338 academic majors and cutting faculty by 7%, or 169 positions, on the Morgantown campus,” reports Trib Live. “However, through appeals, those numbers have been whittled.”
The WVU Board of Governors gave Gee a one-year contract extension in July. Gee subsequently announced his plans to retire in June of 2025.
Gee is a seasoned college president who first took over leadership of WVU in 1981 at the age of 36. During that time, he is credited with helping find funding for a new WVU hospital, which today is one of the largest medical institutions in the state. He returned to the school as president in 2014 after then-President Jim Clements left suddenly to take a job at Clemson University.
Board members personally contacted Gee to see if he would return to the Mountain state in an interim capacity.
“I thought about it and then decided it would just be a wonderful thing to do, given that I know the institution and have such a wonderful respect for it and for the state,” Gee told Inside Higher Ed.
Gee has also been the president of Ohio State University twice, Vanderbilt University, Brown University, and the University of Colorado.
Gee is a graduate of the University of Utah and received his J.D. and Ed.D. from Columbia University. He has also written numerous books including the forthcoming What’s Public about Higher Education.
“Before starting his career in higher education, he clerked under Chief Justice David T. Lewis of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and was a judicial fellow and staff assistant to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he worked for Chief Justice Warren Burger,” notes WVU.
Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed previously survived a No Confidence vote in 2021.
“The Board of Governors unequivocally supports the leadership of President Gee and the strategic repositioning of WVU and rejects the multiple examples of misinformation that informed these resolutions,” said Taunja Willis-Miller, the Chair of the WVU Board of Governors, in a statement after the faculty’s vote. “The University is transforming to better reflect the needs of today, and we must continue to act boldly. President Gee has shown time and again he is not afraid to do the difficult work required.”