Former West Virginia University Institute of Technology president Carolyn Long said Monday she plans to leave “in the next month or so” her position as the state Higher Education Policy Commission’s interim chancellor.
She said she hopes to return to the WVU Tech presidency she left in July.
The HEPC board’s July 10 vote to hire Long came shortly after Gov. Jim Justice formed his Blue Ribbon Commission on Four-Year Higher Education, and it came despite all but one of the state’s smaller public four-year colleges opposing the hiring.
After the vote, Shepherd University President Mary Hendrix wrote to the news media that “we are witnessing — in disbelief — an unprecedented hostile takeover of our Higher Education Governing body,” something WVU denied. She attributed the hiring to WVU’s opposition to the HEPC staff’s recommendations for a college funding formula that would have dropped WVU’s state funding.
Long said she didn’t do WVU’s bidding in her eight months in the role, saying “there is no great conspiracy.”
She reiterated Monday that she wasn’t interested in being chancellor permanently. She said she would stay in the interim role “if there was going to be a transition into big changes” at the HEPC to help with that transition.
“And there’s not going to be, as far as I can see,” Long said. “So, therefore, I’m following through with what I said I would do.”
WVU President Gordon Gee recommended to several HEPC board members appointing Long to the interim role, and said, even before the HEPC board followed that recommendation, that he wanted her to return to Tech after that stint.
Shelli Dronsfield, the HEPC’s communications director, said Long has made $193,000 so far in the interim position. She would receive $289,000 if she worked a full year.
The Blue Ribbon panel missed Justice’s Dec. 10 deadline for a final report on higher education, and it hasn’t announced any meetings since one on Jan. 4.
Long said she didn’t make the decision to resign until the end of the regular legislative session earlier this month.
Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 673 this session to eliminate the statewide master plan for public higher education, and that bill awaits Justice’s signature or veto. But lawmakers didn’t use any HEPC-recommended funding formula and didn’t approve other state higher education oversight decreases that were the source of much of the controversy in Blue Ribbon meetings.
Among those: proposals to demote the HEPC from an oversight and policy agency to one that would just provide services to colleges, and possibly change its name and board makeup.
Gee, who led the Blue Ribbon meetings, and current and former WVU Board of Governors members who also were on the panel supported demoting the HEPC.
Long said she told HEPC Chairman Michael Farrell a week ago of her intent to resign and that she intends to make the transition as “smooth as possible.”
Farrell said, “There was always an implicit understanding that she would lead HEPC through the legislative session ... there was never any doubt in my mind that she always wanted to return to Tech.”
The HEPC board has called a meeting to “discuss personnel issues” and possibly take action related to Long’s anticipated resignation.
The meeting is at 9:30 a.m. Friday at 1018 Kanawha Blvd. E., in Charleston, on the ninth floor of the Boulevard Tower.
Farrell and HEPC Vice Chairman Drew Payne said Monday they believe the board should hire another interim chancellor, rather than a permanent chancellor.
On Monday, Farrell, similar to what he said when the Blue Ribbon panel was formed, expressed doubt that the HEPC can find a quality permanent chancellor when that person “doesn’t know whether the entity for which he’s hired will exist a year from now.”
He noted that state lawmakers have now called for their own study of higher education, “and I think it would be premature on my part or the [HEPC’s] part to presuppose the outcome of that study.” But he said he hopes and expects that the HEPC will continue to exist.
Of Long, he said, “I think there were some who may have voted for her who believed that there might be a death of the HEPC and she would serve until that funeral. It’s my belief that the HEPC is not going to die. I think this legislative session proved that.”