West Virginia University President Gordon Gee’s comments about Marshall and his apology (the latter of which only occurred after provocation from Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne) are disturbing.
Gee did not concede that his statement was incorrect. He also did not deny it represents his perspective. He only said it was “inappropriate” and he regretted saying it. I think his meek apology is insufficient and lacked sincerity by writing this off as, and I paraphrase, “something I am prone to do.” I sense no true sincerity nor honesty. We all can recall similar comments from public persons which revealed hidden bias or worse. Simply apologizing after being caught does not rectify the mistake nor dispel the appearance of exposed prejudice.
It is apparent that both President Gee and Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert were aligned on the core issue of guns on campus, so why would a disparaging comment originate regarding an ally? One may perceive it was because of his true feelings about Marshall, and other institutions.
Looking beyond the crass attempt to belittle Marshall, it is vital to recognize this man is the head of a Blue Ribbon Committee that is determining the methodology for the distribution of higher education funds to our colleges in West Virginia. His comment reveals an inability to seek fairness in that process and is of potential significant negative consequence to Marshall, other schools and our state’s future. He should be removed from the committee. I am incensed that Gov. Jim Justice, who appointed Gee to chair the committee, has failed to respond. The WVU Board of Governors needs some self reflection, also.
Narrow-mindedness and self interests of our past leaders contributed to the precarious position our state is in now. This is a warning that the past is repeating itself. Here is an opportunity, under our noses, to prove we are serious about changing our practices.