Recent leadership changes leaves WVU’s future unclear.
West Virginia University is ending the academic year with various leadership changes. After 20 years at the university, Joyce McConnell is parting ways and has her sights on the presidency at Colorado State University. As Provost, McConnell focused on bettering gender equity, diversity and inclusion, Title IX and the WVU Law School. Maryanne Reed, dean of Reed College of Media, is set to fill the Provost position on July 1.
Following the leadership changes at the university, the topic of WVU President E. Gordon Gee’s contract renewal was discussed, which expires in 2021. It has been cited that Gee did not specifically request an extension.
Board of Governors Chair William Wilmoth stated that the board is looking into Gee’s performance as president to determine a possible contract extension for his term. In a news release, Wilmoth said Gee “indicated he would be interested in extending his time with West Virginia University, and I am excited and believe it is in this institution’s best interest to explore that option.”
This is not West Virginia University’s first experience with Gee in the drivers seat. Gee was president from 1981 to 1985 and returned to the university in 2013.
WVU has truly capitalized on the ‘Gee Brand’ on his second go around. From selfies to Gee Mail to the bowtie obsession, he has become a marketing dream. During Open House, perspective students wait in line to get a picture with the president.
President Gee engages with the student body and is notorious for roaming around the nightlife scene.
One can wonder if WVU’s marketing team is crossing their fingers for a contract extension due to the success of the ‘Gee brand’.
However, there are two sides to every coin. Gee was not presented as a lovable, charismatic figure head at previous universities. From 1998 to 2000, he was the President at Brown University. After making budget cuts that affected the university’s arts program, Brown actually has portable toilets called the “E. Gordon Gee Lavatory Complex”.
Gee was president of Ohio State University from 1990 to 1997 and 2007 to 2013. During his terms, he received backlash from:
- Raising tuition to where Ohio residences were paying 150 percent more inflation-adjusted dollars to attend OSU than before his term.
- privatizing university parking.
- increased the size of the university’s senior staff by 30 percent and raised their average salaries by 63 percent.
- abruptly retired after he came under fire for saying “you just can’t trust those damn Catholics”, referring to Notre Dame.
Recently, Gee has been criticized for spending $2.2 million between May 2014 and June 2017 – most of the private jet travel expenses were paid with WVU tuition money.
By analyzing the pros and cons, it is difficult to say if President Gee has rebranded the university or if WVU rebranded Gee.