Kanawha County Democrats call for freeze on WVU transformation process, independent audit of school’s finances

By Matthew Young, RealWV

The Kanawha County Democratic Executive Committee (KCDEC), on Tuesday, adopted a resolution calling for, among other things, “A freeze on the (West Virginia University) transformation process, consistent with the vote of the WVU Faculty Senate on September 6.”

“This whole (transformation) plan was rushed,” Kanawha County Democratic Executive Committeeman Robin Godfrey told RealWV on Thursday. “In a nutshell, there was over-building with money that they didn’t have and debt they couldn’t pay. And now the faculty and students have to pay the price.”

Godfrey added that the state’s reputation as a whole is also negatively impacted by this situation.

In addition to freezing the proposed transformation plan, the resolution also calls for, “The immediate and adequate funding of WVU by the Legislature,” and, “An independent audit of WVU’s finances.”

While Godfrey feels it was important for the KCDEC to adopt the resolution, he fears it will have little bearing on the university’s plans moving forward.

“It’s clear to me that the fix is in,” Godfrey said. “The Board of Governors is more like a club than a real Board of Governors. I think this has a bad odor about money and debt at the bottom of it.”

“It’s ironic,” Godfrey continued. “I like jazz – I play the piano. And I got a message that WVU’s jazz major is being eliminated. Boy, that’s going to take care of that $45 million, isn’t it?”

WVU’s financial troubles have been well-documented by both local and national media outlets over the past several months. The university’s reported $45 million shortfall has been the catalyst for their proposed “academic transformation,” which seeks to eliminate many popular degree programs, and a significant number of faculty and staff positions.

“The [elimination of] the world language (programs) is also consternating,” Godfrey said. “22% of U.S. households, I have learned, speak a language other than English and Spanish. We live in a global economy, and a multi-lingual society. If they’re going to do away with world languages, I think that puts our students at a tremendous disadvantage competitively.”

Godfrey is a 1976 graduate of the WVU College of Law. Now mostly retired, Godfrey has been an active member of the KCDEC since 2018.

The WVU Board of Governors is scheduled to vote on adoption of the proposed “academic Transformation” plan on Friday. RealWV will provide updates regarding this ongoing situation as additional information is made available.

Read the full resolution below:

WHEREAS, an “Academic Transformation” process (“the Plan”) has recently been  proposed at West Virginia University (WVU) in the face of a deficit, the known amount of which is $45 million, in its operating budget; and 15; and 

WHEREAS, the WVU Board of Governors intends to vote on the Plan Friday, September 

WHEREAS, as a result of the Plan, many educational opportunities will no longer be  available to WVU students, and in particular to students from West Virginia, and will severely  impact negatively many students who have just arrived on campus; and 

WHEREAS, news of the Plan, which has been deemed a radical diminution of and attack  on liberal arts education, has been the subject of news reports across the country and has cast West Virginia in a very negative light; and 

WHEREAS, the Plan proposes, among other things, to eliminate the World Languages Department, despite the fact that we live in an increasingly global economy and the United States is becoming increasingly multilingual; and 

WHEREAS, the elimination in particular of the World Languages Department, the masters and doctoral instruction at the School of Mathematics and Data Sciences, as well as other courses of study will diminish the ability of WVU graduates to compete in the global and national economy; and 

WHEREAS, WVU is considered one of the premier public institutions of higher learning and research in West Virginia, and is sometimes referred to as “The Pride of West Virginia”. For some students WVU may be the only affordable in-state option for higher education in certain majors. However, the West Virginia Legislature, with the Governor’s complicity, has consistently failed to fund the University adequately, resulting in continual tuition increases and already making attendance unaffordable for some West Virginia students; and 

WHEREAS, the essence of the Plan places the consequences and sacrifices entirely on the students, faculty and staff at WVU; and 

WHEREAS, the WVU faculty senate voted overwhelmingly on September 6, 2023 for a resolution calling for an immediate freeze of the Plan. 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Kanawha County Democratic Executive Committee: 

a) states its unequivocal support for the faculty in its approval of the “freeze” resolution to allow time for the development of a more thoughtful plan that includes input from the faculty, students, and citizens of West Virginia; 

b) calls for the Governor and Legislature to provide immediately a proper level of funding to WVU to help relieve its immediate financial difficulties; and 

c) calls for a thorough independent audit of WVU’s finances. 

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