A vote of no-confidence against West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and Provost Maryanne Reed might not have immediate consequences, but that doesn’t make it meaningless.
The WVU Faculty Senate is expected to vote on the matter during an online meeting Monday. The grievances that prompted the action include Gee’s failure to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations — something the Faculty Senate overwhelmingly supported — and allegations of opaqueness when it comes to hiring for certain positions and decisions to eliminate or retain academic programs.
The Faculty Senate has no power over Gee or Reed. A no-confidence vote is just a statement indicating how the faculty feels about the university’s president and provost. At the same time, having the faculty members declare they have no confidence in the administrative tandem isn’t something WVU can just dismiss with a shrug of the shoulders.
It probably won’t bother Gee, who has been in collegiate administration so long that he’s been the president of both WVU and Ohio State twice, with no shortage of controversy surrounding him over a range of topics during that time (none of which was helped by his occasionally sharp tongue and high degree of self-confidence). Gee’s mouth led to his second departure from Columbus, but it doesn’t seem to be the source of discontent in this case.
The WVU Board of Governors could see the Faculty Senate vote in a different light. It’s hard to imagine any significant action against Gee or Reed, but life sometimes surprises.
There are implications for the faculty, too. No-confidence votes sometimes have a way of coming back on the voters, with administrators occasionally taking names and biding their time for retribution. This is especially dangerous if an administration is operating without transparency, as some Faculty Senate members allege is the case in Morgantown. Of course, we make the same case. The Gazette-Mail is suing WVU over violations of state open meetings law.
While those scenarios, at least anecdotally, seem more common at smaller schools, policy disagreements at any university have the potential to become personal. Hopefully, that’s not the case here.
This is all assuming the no-confidence vote will pass in the first place, which seems likely, but nothing is certain until it’s said and done.
It could be a lot of noise over nothing, but a disgruntled faculty wanting to put its discontent on record isn’t a good sign for WVU.