“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity,” said Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl.
Local case in point? The “nationwide” search for a president at West Virginia State University.
WVSU is one of the largest gems in the crown that West Virginia wears. A historically Black college/university, State was once the hub of knowledge, diversity and inclusion. Every WVSU student, will, until death, consider her a touchstone in each and every endeavor.
WVSU was founded in 1890 to provide education to Black citizens in the mechanical arts and agriculture. After the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation in 1954, WVSU opened her doors and boldly met the challenges that came with the transformation into a culturally and racially diverse institution of higher learning.
WVSU has earned the coveted reputation of being steadfastly in tune with her roots. WVSU has only seen 11 presidents since inception. Unfortunately, that status is endangered, as State already has seen two appointees come and go in the past four years.
I do not believe WVSU’s Board of Governors comprehends the confusion and chaos that yet another nationwide search for president brings, not only to current students and faculty, but thousands of alumni who contribute time and financial assistance.
The past two presidents used State as a steppingstone to bigger and better opportunities. I don’t feel that the prior president had the credentials necessary for a position of this magnitude.
Additionally, these nationwide searches cost WVSU over $85,000, plus expenses, for each search. Those are funds, during these times, that WVSU can ill afford to mete out, while faculty and students are in a constant state of flux. The onus of this culmination of chaos lies right with the Board of Governors — a board for a historically Black college made up predominantly of Caucasians.
I pose a question and a viable solution to the dilemma in which WVSU and her Board of Governors are mired.
Is there no one in West Virginia capable of leading State back into the prosperous, progressively diverse status she so richly deserves and enjoyed until 2016? Yes, there are several, but none with the credentials and pedigree that comes with David Fryson.
Fryson was born in Institute, graduated from WVSU, and then went to law school. He’s an ordained minister, retired from West Virginia University as dean of diversity and is interim vice president and chief diversity officer at Brandeis University.
Fryson’s wife, Joy, is a direct descendant of the Cabell family, from whom the land for WVSU was benevolently gifted to West Virginia for the explicit purpose of a school for Black citizens.
These are facts: Enrollment is down; funding is low; morale is horrible, and more than a few members of the faculty and staff have retired or resigned because the constant upheaval WVSU’s board has brought upon the school.
I’ve been a champion for my friend, David Fryson, for almost 10 years. I firmly believe that he is the one person who can lead my beloved State from the miasma that poor choices by the board and actors behind the scenes have led her to.