CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia University faculty approved a symbolic motion on Wednesday expressing no confidence in President E. Gordon Gee as the university addresses a $45 million budget shortfall.
The university is struggling with the financial toll of dwindling enrollment, revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing debt load for new building projects. The budget shortfall is projected to grow as high as $75 million in five years.
The faculty resolution on Gee said his administration's poor planning, faulty decision making and financial mismanagement has significantly contributed to the crisis. It called into question Gee’s “ability to responsibly, honestly and effectively lead, facilitate and participate in decision making.”
“I must say that if I had done all of those things, I’d probably vote no confidence myself,” Gee told the faculty prior to the vote.
The votes, which serve as a symbolic gesture to express the faculty's collective thoughts, were held a month after the university Board of Governors gave Gee a one-year contract extension. Gee announced a week later that he plans to step down after his contract expires in June 2025.
The university’s faculty assembly also was voting on a second motion calling for WVU to freeze ongoing academic program and faculty cuts.
The university is proposing cutting 32 programs — 9% of the majors offered on its Morgantown campus — including its entire department of world languages, literatures and linguistics, along with graduate and doctoral degrees in math, music, English and more. The Board of Governors will conduct a final vote on the cuts next week.
While the university recommended eliminating 7% of the total faculty in Morgantown, critics said that estimate approached 16%.
Hundreds of students held a protest last month while the American Federation of Teachers called the cuts “draconian and catastrophic.”
Gee has served two stints as WVU’s president. After taking over in 2014, his promise to increase enrollment to 40,000 students by 2020 never materialized. Instead, the student population has dropped 10% since 2015, while on-campus expansion continued.
WVU has spent millions of dollars on construction projects in recent years, including a $100 million new home for the university’s business school, a $35 million renovation of a 70-year-old classroom building and $41 million for two phases of upgrades to the football team’s building.