Facing WVU program cuts, more faculty appeals see mixed results 

By: - August 31, 2023 8:30 pm

The Canady Creative Arts Center at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.Va. (Aidan Cornue | West Virginia Watch)

West Virginia University leaders today announced another round of final recommendations for academic program cuts following an appeals process. The pending changes are expected to bring employment slashes, as well, to the state’s flagship university. 

WVU leaders are in the process of evaluating which programs they’ll cut as they look to reduce a $45 million funding shortfall spurred by, in part, an enrollment decline. 

The fast-moving process, which started in the summer, has sent shock waves through the nation’s higher education system, as many have wondered how the flagship university could consider eliminating 32 programs, including many of its language courses and all of its graduate math programs. 

WVU President E. Gordon Gee is facing his second vote of no confidence from faculty next week. Faculty members said Gee has “plunged” the university into debt and hasn’t been transparent about how the program cuts will fix the budget issues. Students have pushed back on the pending changes, too. 

This round of the appeals process, led by department chairs, ended in mixed results for programs. While several programs were successful in their appeals, they’re still facing changes that include faculty reductions.

The School of Theatre and Dance was successful in its appeal to keep the MFA Acting program that had been recommended for discontinuance; the appeals committee said the program central to all school operations and both undergraduate and graduate programs. 

The School of Art and Design will continue to offer a bachelors in Art History under the final recommendation. However, the program will change its name and curriculum by January to reflect a new focus on both art history and museum studies and professions. Both programs will face faculty reductions. 

Other departments weren’t successful in their appeals, and the Department of Mathematics is still recommended to lose its masters and doctorate programs. 

“The presence or absence of a math PhD is not a determining factor in the Carnegie R1 classification and MA or MS degrees are not included in the calculations that Carnegie uses to determine R1 versus R2 status,” said Vice President for Research Fred King. “The reality is that we are looking to the future and other R1s are likely to follow suit.”

The appeals committee amended the faculty position reduction recommendation to 32, enabling the unit to continue to appropriately staff the teaching of its service courses, according to the news release. Key considerations for reducing personnel overall included declines in enrollment across the school’s degree programs and a decrease in student credit hour production.

The Department of Chemistry lost its appeal in wanting to scale down the recommended faculty reduction. 

“As a result, the preliminary recommendation to reduce the current number of positions in the unit to 23 faculty stands,” the news release said. The department will also develop an occupational-focused pathway for students

The College of Law will reduce its number of required credits to eliminate inefficient and unnecessary program requirements.

Read the newest list of the appeals outcomes here. The WVU Office of the Provost announced final recommendations from the first four appeals hearings earlier this week.

The Board of Governors will hear public comments from ahead of its final vote on the program recommendations Sept. 15.


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Amelia Ferrell Knisely
Amelia Ferrell Knisely

Amelia is an investigative reporter for West Virginia Watch. Her coverage regularly focuses on poverty, child welfare, social services and government.