West Virginia University slashes liberal arts programs, cuts 143 faculty positions

News & Politics

The board of West Virginia University voted to make campus-wide cuts to academic programs and faculty positions after falling into a $45 million budget downswing. This comes after students urged the campus to “stop the cuts.”

The Associated Press reported that the university is set to cut 28 of its majors, amounting to about 8% of the total majors offered.

A total of 143 faculty positions are also being cut, which amounts to about 5%. The cuts include hacking off a third of the education department faculty and the entire world language department.

However, there will be seven language teaching positions, and students will still be able to take language courses as electives.

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The university has been financially suffering, as total enrollment has decreased by 10% since 2015. It has also lost money amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an increasing debt bill for new building projects, per the report.

Students interrupted the meeting on Friday just before the board’s vote, chanting slogans and holding up signs. One sign read, “This isn’t the WVU that I fell in love with.” The report noted that there were no people chanting in support of the massive cuts.

Maryanne Reed, provost and vice president for academic affairs, apparently acknowledged the frustrated protesters, but said that “even with the accelerated timeline, this was a thoughtful, professional and data-informed process.”

Reed’s comments came after the board approved a $7 million reduction in staff in June, which amounts to about 132 positions. There were also 12 graduate and doctorate programs cut, and they green-lit a 3% increase in tuition.

Board chair Taunja Willis Miller said 509 total staff positions have been slashed in order to improve efficiencies.

Faculty members will reportedly find out if they have lost their job by October 16, per the AP. However, those who do lose their job will be allowed to stay on until early May.

The majority of students who have had their majors cut already have 60 credits logged and will be able to graduate with WVU degrees. And they will apparently receive guidance on finding alternatives since their degree will no longer be available.

The university characterized the sudden change as an “academic transformation” following an “existential crisis” in higher education.

President E. Gordon Gee said that he is not worried about the school’s image following the decision, adding that he is focused on having a successful university.

“This is a time of great change in higher education, and we are leading that change rather than being its victim,” he said.

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