In April 2019, Prof. Maryanne Reed was appointed as the new Provost of WVU. She was appointed by the university president, Gordon Gee, with no formal search procedure or call for applications.
At a May 13, 2019 Faculty Senate meeting, a Faculty Senator questioned Gee about why there was no formal search procedure and no formal consultation with faculty. Video of that meeting is below, and discussion of the Provost situation begins around 1 hour 12 minutes into the video.
Gee notably failed to respond to any concerns about the process involved in the appointment, which is what the senator had asked about. Instead, he repeatedly asserted that the candidate is qualified, that he (Gee) has a successful track record of appointing administrators, and that this is the way it works at Brown and Harvard. Gee also insinuated that the Faculty Senator had questioned the credentials or the competence of the person who was appointed, which is false.
The Faculty Senate subsequently voted to send the issue to their Executive Committee, which will create a committee to look into specific questions regarding the hiring process. We strongly support the decision to investigate the circumstances around this appointment. The Provost has ultimate authority over tenure and promotion decisions, and it plainly contravenes the spirit of shared governance for a Provost to be hired without faculty involvement.
A review of the WVU Board of Governors’ rules suggests that, indeed, the university president has ultimate authority over all hiring decisions (see relevant sections here and here). If this is the case, we object to those rules. They must either be changed to guarantee faculty input, or the ambiguous phrase ‘consultation with appropriate faculty’ must be clarified and strengthened.
Renewal of the president’s contract
In April 2019, the WVU Board of Governors announced its intention to renew Gordon Gee’s contract as president. As part of that process, the Board is required to solicit feedback and commentary from the faculty and university community.
They chose to do so in a 40-minute session on the first day of finals, which was announced 4 days beforehand. That is, the over 5,000 faculty and staff affected by this decision were given the opportunity to comment on Gee’s renewal during a single live session of less than an hour, scheduled during vital university activities. It is our position that the Board of Governors has not made a good-faith effort to actually solicit input from the faculty (or other actors), and as such the requirements for renewing Gee’s contract have not been met.
This is independent of any actual evaluation of Gee’s performance as president, his compensation package, or his fitness for the office. Even if all of those factors are judged to be adequate, the process of the renewal is not.