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Students, Family, Faculty React to Troubles at West Liberty University

West Liberty University
West Liberty University

  West Liberty University is a four-year public university. Established in 1837, it’s one of the oldest higher education institutions in West Virginia. But lately the university has been charting some choppy waters.

Former WLU President Robin Capehart is being investigated by the West Virginia Ethics Commission for possibly using university funds in private business ventures; the faculty senate voted no-confidence in the current Chief Financial Officer; and, student protests have broken out over the announcement of recent cost-saving administrative policies.

Students and Family React

Not many students are willing to openly discuss feelings about recent events at West Liberty, but many are passionate about the subject in one way or another.

Some talk off the record about a lack of confidence in leadership. Others were unconcerned about the future of the university or were tired of the discussion. Still others say they aren’t sure how they are supposed to feel or what exactly is going on within the administration. In general, the displeased seem to question the priorities of the administration. 

Parents and family of 2015 graduates who recently came from far away to celebrate graduation knew very little about what was going on at the university. Local residents, however, knew a lot and expressed frustration.

Fiscal Responsibility

For most, reactions to recent university developments seem to boil down to perceived fiscal responsibility, or the lack thereof. On one hand, students and the public have been informed of unilateral decisions to shutdown programs and facilities to save money, while on the other hand there are reports about the upper echelons of the organization getting large salaries and even raises. Students protested those unilateral decisions – the shutdown of the ceramics program and an arts building during the summer, for example. Ultimately it was decided to keep that program and building open.

A New Faculty Member on the Board

James Haizlett, Associate Professor of Graphic Design, has been at West Liberty for 16 years. He’s the newly elected faculty member to the board of governors.

His has been a louder voice advocating for change in recent months. But today he is hopeful about the current situation and the future. He has a lot of confidence in the interim president John McCullough and a lot of confidence in his colleges, the faculty, and the quality of the education being served to students. He also has confidence in the board of governors.

“I feel like we’re being listened to,” Haizlett said, “and I intend to voice the opinion of the faculty in the best way that I can.”

Haizlett says he knows for certain that financial adjustments have been and are being made to take care of the needs of the students. He acknowledges that these are challenging times financially, especially for public institutions like West Liberty. Haizlett and other faculty say solid leadership right now is critical. They say that leadership has to be attuned to the needs of students, faculty, and administrators who are working hard to turn out educated, capable members of society.

A search committee and timeline to for the new president has already been established. The deadline to receive nomination and applications is by June. Advertising is now underway. A new president will likely take office by January 1st of 2016. 

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