West Virginia University President Gordon Gee told Board of Governors members that during the COVID-19 crisis he is “proud that we have retained our laser-like focus on the pillars of our land-grant mission – education, healthcare and prosperity in West Virginia.”
The Board was briefed Friday, Nov. 6 during its regular meeting on a number of projects being undertaken at the University as it continues to navigate the evolving challenges of the pandemic.
Gee echoed Sarah Biller, executive director for Vantage Ventures, when discussing the possibilities presented by Virgin Hyperloop’s recent announcement that it will locate the Hyperloop Certification Center in the state.
“In the end, this is a remarkable achievement and we can’t underscore that enough,” Gee said.
Board members approved plans to negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Virgin Hyperloop to solidify various aspects of the project including research, service and other opportunities including the formation of WVU-led West Virginia Hyperloop Consortium.
Another initiative – this time centered on outdoor recreation and the changing landscape of employment in the U.S. – will develop a new remote worker program, in partnership with the State and supported by one of the largest gifts in WVU history, to help individuals and young families prosper especially amid the pandemic.
“The program will target fully employed individuals from outside the state who can work anywhere and want to be part of a contemporary, experience-driven lifestyle,” Gee said.
WVU’s program, part of the newly named Brad and Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Collaborative, will launch in early 2021.
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Meshea L. Poore outlined efforts in recent months of the action-oriented working groups established to address critical and long-standing issues related to racism and inequality at the University.
“While this is a part of the work we need to do as Mountaineers, I will say to you that it is not all the work we have to do,” Poore said. “We have to move beyond our fear; we have to move beyond the things that are uncomfortable or unknown to us; continue to have communications and a channel of understanding and listening; and willingness to do the work, even when it’s hard.”
WVU has created a hub to house detailed information about the groups’ ongoing work and provide important updates on initial recommendations and subsequent initiatives.
Board member Dr. Patrice Harris joined Chair David Alvarez and President Gee in thanking the groups and Poore for their work. “Accountability belongs to all of us. Accountability starts with us here at the Board of Governors and it has to be intentional, there has to be accountability and there have to be metrics,” Harris added.
BOG members also took action during Friday’s meeting to approve amended Governance Rule 1.6 - Regarding Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Misconduct, Stalking, Retaliation, and Relationships; and Student Life Rule 6.1 - Student Rights and Responsibilities; Student Conduct. The proposed changes were noticed during the Board’s Aug. 14 meeting to comply with new Title IX regulations. Additionally, the proposed amendments include other minor changes to more clearly address University practices and current terminology.
Notably, WVU ended the 2020 fiscal year with financial stability according to Paula Congelio, vice president of finance and chief financial officer. She told the Board’s Joint Finance and Facilities and Revitalization/Strategic Plans and Initiatives Committees earlier in the morning that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, “with help from the CARES ACT, we continued to manage expenses and make progress from a financial perspective.”
The University also received an “unmodified” audit opinion, the highest possible, and auditors with Clifton Larson Allen congratulated the University on its performance and cooperation in light of the difficulties the pandemic presented. In its subsequent meeting, the full Board officially received the reports and audit.
Board members also heard from Lisa Martin regarding the annual Classified Staff presentation, including the Tuition Scholarship for children of Classified Staff which offered support for six recipients for 20-21. Meanwhile, the Tuition Scholarship for Classified Staff had 11 recipients in fall 2020. Classified Staff across the WVU system also participated in a coat drive and K-12 backpack giveaway project.
As the University enters the final stretch of the fall semester, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed detailed efforts to assist faculty, staff and students through the pandemic.
Looking forward, Reed talked about plans for the spring semester, “Our goal is to again preserve as much as possible the on-campus experience for freshmen and graduate students and, whenever possible, to offer capstone, experiential courses to graduating seniors.”
The first day of classes is planned Jan. 19. All students and employees will be required to be tested before the start of the semester. Extensive testing will continue throughout the spring. Additional information and updates are available at WVU’s Return to Campus website.
Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop added detail to the testing planned for the spring semester telling Board members that most students and employees will continue to receive a live virus PÇR test. However, rapid antigen tests will also be available for residence hall coordinators and students in residence halls. Alsop noted that the University will accept nasal swab test results from other State-supported testing centers for faculty and staff only. Only results dated after Jan. 4 will be accepted, and results from out-of-state testing centers will be not be accepted.
In other Board action:
- Approved new AAS Technical Studies: Carpentry Technology major
- Approved new BS Early Childhood Special Education degree program
- Approved new Graduate Certificate in Quantitative & Qualitative Social Sciences Research Methods in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
- Approved new Graduate Certificate in Petroleum Data Analytics in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
- Approved new MS in Petroleum Data Analytics in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
The next regularly scheduled meeting is set for Dec. 18.
CONTACT: April Kaull, Executive Director of Communications
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