PERSPECTIVES: National Commentary on the Extraordinary Circumstance at West Virginia University

From The Nation: “The public land-grant university intends to eliminate 9 percent of its majors (32 programs total), all of its foreign language programs, and 16 percent of its full-time faculty members (169 in total). The departments targeted for these massive cuts count Truman, Marshall, Fulbright, and Rhodes scholars among their alumni.” 

From Inside Higher Education about student protests: “The main campus protest—there was another Monday at the Evansdale campus, also in Morgantown—grew to the point that organizers, who were struggling with audio issues, had to corral people off University Avenue, a main thoroughfare, where they were blocking traffic.”

From Forbes: “Despite what WVU’s (president) Gee and the consultants he hired might claim, this is not just about money; it’s about priorities. Only five states don’t have an R1 level university: Alaska, Idaho, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Does West Virginia want to join that club?

From the New York Times: “The university’s problems, they say, stem from fiscal mismanagement. Over the last decade, the university has invested in new buildings and has renovated its athletic facilities. Faculty members say capital spending was imprudent when West Virginia’s population declined.”

From The Week US (UK source): “In proposing the elimination of mainly liberal arts programs, West Virginia “is engaging in a kind of educational gerrymandering,” said Leif Weatherby, associate professor of German at New York University. The trend is ‘typically led by Republican-controlled legislatures.’ And while it’s framed as a budgetary necessity, it actually ‘threatens to have dire long-term effects on our already polarized and divided nation.’  Finances aren’t the point. The humanities are under threat across the nation ‘because of the perceived left-wing ideology of the liberal arts,’ Weatherby continued. He noted that book bans and remodeled school curriculums about Black history are also part of this ‘coordinated assault,’ a campaign that is ‘politically motivated, through and through.’ The goal is ‘to divide the electorate, and higher education is the tool.’ Ultimately, the ‘outcome will likely fortify many Republican voting strongholds.’

From The Chronicle of Higher Education: “The roots of West Virginia’s current predicament run much deeper. They include external forces like the pandemic, declines in state appropriations, demographic trends, and budget battles at the federal level. But they are also the result of internal choices and miscalculations like debt-fueled spending on buildings and, most crucially, the big bet by university leaders on enrollment growth that didn’t pay off.”

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