West Liberty Faculty Senate Head Seeks To Build Trust After Board Vote To Censure President
Updated at 6 p.m. on Thursday Nov. 4, 2021
West Liberty University’s Faculty Senate Chairman Sean Ryan said it’s time to move forward and focus on rebuilding trust between the campus community and President Franklin Evans, who has come under fire in recent weeks following multiple plagiarism allegations.
On Wednesday evening, West Liberty’s Board of Governors (BOG) voted to “publicly censure” the president. Ryan said in general, he’s pleased with the board of governors’ vote.
“I think [Board of Governors Chairman Richard Lucas] has explained that the board has laid out a positive road ahead,” Ryan said. “He was pretty clear that the president is being tasked with working with the board to lay out a way ahead, to rebuild trust, and to unify the campus and the community.”
Evans will remain in his position as president, but the board has publicly asserted that it strongly disapproves of the president’s failure to cite sources in several speeches since taking his job in January.
Ryan said he thinks the board was thorough in its work, and he said the academic integrity policy for West Liberty will be strengthened.
“When it comes to administrators and staff, we did not have a plagiarism or academic integrity policy, and a lot of institutions don't,” Ryan said. “That's a gap. We're going to sew up that gap, and we're going to make it very clear to all employees, all students, and to every stakeholder that we take academic integrity and plagiarism seriously, and it's not acceptable.”
Ryan said this is a learning moment for the school and that it will be vital for the president to focus on rebuilding trust.
“The [board of governors] has done their job, and we need to respect that decision and move forward,” said Ryan.
Last month, a survey, conducted by the faculty senate, reached two-thirds of faculty. Of that number, 86 percent felt the president’s leadership had been compromised, and 60 percent called for his resignation.
Evans shared the following statement with press and the campus Wednesday evening following the vote by the BOG:
“I am grateful to the West Liberty Board of Governors for its support of my leadership as president of this great institution. I have expressed regret for the mistakes that I have made and am taking this opportunity to once again apologize to the university community. Please note that I am unable to address any specificities pertaining to issues handled by the board pertaining to me as they are personnel matters. With that in mind, I am determined to move forward and humbly ask for the West Liberty family to join me in doing so.
“As president of WLU, along with my executive cabinet, we are working collaboratively and collectively with faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners to reunite and emerge even stronger. I have a great responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer of WLU to lead this institution to its next level of greatness. There are decisions that will be made that might not be popular, but those decisions will be made in the best interest of the university and the students we serve. We will encounter challenges, but with focus and a single-mindedness on achieving the vision of this university, we can move forward. And it is my resolve that West Liberty comes out even better than imagined.”
He added: “I see the dawning of an institution where everyone is valued, respected, and appreciated for the uniqueness they bring to this family...”
After a nearly two-hour executive session Wednesday evening, West Liberty University’s Board of Governors voted unanimously to “publicly censure” President Franklin Evans following allegations of plagiarism by school faculty in early October.
This means Evans will remain in his position, but the board publicly asserts that it strongly disapproves of the president’s failure to cite sources in several speeches since taking his job in January.
“According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of censure is an ‘official strong criticism and severe disapproval.’ This public censure will be placed into the permanent record of the minutes of the Board of Governors meeting,” said Chairman Richard Lucas.
The board said it expects Evans to “implement actions” to reunify and rebuild trust with the campus community, alumni and university donors, and the board will “directly oversee the rebuilding process and evaluate the progress” of the president.
“The [board] has listened to students, alumni, faculty senate, staff, the West Liberty University Foundation, administration and other stakeholders. [We] now believe it is time for West Liberty University to move forward and face the many challenges that all universities across the country are dealing with,” said Lucas.
A story first published by Inside Higher Ed outlined multiple instances where Evans used remarks from others in his public speeches but never properly cited them.
In late October, West Liberty’s Board of Governors voted to discipline Evans following the allegations and following a survey conducted by the university’s faculty senate. That survey reached 66 percent of the school’s faculty. Of those surveyed, 86 percent thought the president’s leadership had been compromised, and 60 percent said they’d like to see him resign.
In a statement emailed to West Virginia Public Broadcasting on Oct. 21, Evans said he is “grateful to the Board of Governors for giving me the opportunity to continue to serve as president of West Liberty University, and I look forward to completing whatever actions and steps it deems appropriate to move the university forward in carrying out the vision and mission of this great institution.”
**Editor's Note: The original version of this story said the faculty senate survey reached 70 percent of faculty members. The correct number is 66 percent.