The West Virginia University Board of Governors received reports Wednesday (Feb. 10) about the positive national attention surrounding the success of COVID-19 vaccination efforts across the State and supported by WVU.
“I am grateful to Gov. Jim Justice for his leadership, as well as Dr. Clay Marsh, West Virginia Coronavirus Czar and our Health Sciences vice president and executive dean,” President Gordon Gee said. Adding, “Many WVU Medicine professionals are working hard to support Gov. Justice’s ongoing efforts to vaccinate West Virginians. We all owe them thanks for making us proud—and keeping us healthy.”
Testing and vaccinations
Ted Svehlik, associate vice president of Auxiliary and Business Services, noted lower positive test results among students this spring compared to the fall, as well as a positivity rate well below the state and Monongalia County. WVU has expanded testing and types of testing to include rapid antigen and self-swab options.
The University will continue to receive a limited number of COVID-19 vaccine doses designated for higher education employees. To date, 240 employees have received two doses, and another 830 employees have received the first dose. Additionally, 697 clinically active Health Sciences students working or on rotation in high-risk areas have received a first dose.
However, with the recent launch of the statewide vaccine pre-registration portal and vaccination clinics now established in all 55 counties, WVU soon will begin phasing out the vaccination clinic located at the Student Recreation Center.
In the meantime, the University will continue to distribute doses in accordance with State guidelines developed by the West Virginia Joint Interagency Task Force.
COVID-19 finances, federal relief
Paula Congelio, vice president of finance and chief financial officer, outlined more than $18.4 million in pandemic-related expenses incurred to date including testing, PPE, transportation, distance learning and teleworking costs, among others. The University has also seen revenue losses in tuition and fees, housing and dining, parking, athletics and other sources totaling $55,389,000.
Last spring, WVU received $20.2 million from the federal CARES Act. The first installment of approximately $10 million provided emergency assistance to students. The rest was used to cover costs associated with significant changes to the delivery of instruction due to COVID-19.
“The University used these moneys to offset the more than $13.6 million in housing and dining refunds that we have paid to our students,” Congelio said.
In December, Congress passed additional relief totaling approximately $30 million which will be used similarly.
The University, Congelio added, has strategically navigated the financial challenges of the pandemic through a variety of measures including:
- Reducing more than $35 million in expenses over initial expected budget.
- Pausing and re-evaluating capital projects.
- Maximizing reimbursement of expenses and loss of revenues at the state and federal level.
Response and impact to the State
From testing and contact tracing, research and development efforts, public outreach, education and assisting with vaccine distribution, WVU has supported and partnered with local, county and state entities, various agencies, the National Guard and others throughout the pandemic.
Jim Hoyer, who serves on the State’s COVID-19 task force and recently retired as adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard before transitioning to WVU, shared his perspective on the University’s impact.
“From my 40 years of emergency response in this state, I can tell you West Virginia University has been absolutely pivotal in the State’s success,” Hoyer said.
He continued by saying that the ability to operationalize the institution to mobilize its land-grant mission “gave us things that other states didn’t have.” He added, “It has absolutely saved lives.”
Academics and transformation
Because of the lower incidents of COVID-19 on campus, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed told the Board that the Research Office has been able to ramp up its operations.
She also announced WVU will launch its first May-mester this year, a new accelerated three-week term that will begin immediately after commencement. Like the existing Winter Intersession term, May-mester will be offered fully online.
Following President Gee’s charge at the December Board of Governors meeting, Reed said her office, in partnership with the Education Advisory Board is moving forward a process of academic transformation across the WVU System. This initiative, focused on academic offerings and services, is part of a larger effort that has been underway for the past several years.
“We will be identifying new areas of opportunity and investment, as well as targeting areas where we can be more efficient and effective, which will allow us to realign resources to support our growth and continued success working in a financially constrained environment which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reed said.
A review process is currently underway which will include the formation of an Academic Transformation Advisory Committee, cross-campus brainstorming sessions, and regular meetings between the Provost Office and academic deans and campus presidents at Keyser and Beckley to share data and analysis.
Reed said a first set of recommendations to the Board is planned this summer but cautioned that it is a long-term process.
Racial and social justice
Gee noted a number of events happening on campus during Black History Month and highlighted some of the ongoing efforts to raise awareness and work on issues relevant to racial and social justice. Gee took part in a recent Social Action Clinic event which brought voices from the University and the greater Morgantown community together to discuss creating and empowering sustainable solutions for social needs.
“I enjoyed participating in this exchange. It was something that I learned a great deal from and I also learned about the good will in our community,” Gee said.
And Gee congratulated first-time student and Morgantown native Frannie Kitzillmer for becoming one of the nation’s first female Eagle Scouts.
The Board also approved:
- the next phase of ongoing updates to the Personal Rapid Transit system.
- a new major in Bachelor of Arts in Art Therapy in the College of Creative Arts.
- degree programs in Bachelor of Integrated Studies and Science in Data Science in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.
- graduate certificate in Nurse Executive Leadership in the School of Nursing.
- undergraduate certificate in Behavior Analysis.
- the establishment of a new department in the School of Public Health.
- several real estate transactions.
- amended Talent and Culture Rule 3.4 – Drug and Alcohol Testing for FTA and FMSCA Covered Positions.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for April 23.
CONTACT: April Kaull, Executive Director of Communications
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