Is this Farewell to the Beloved Bowtie Brand?

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:

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.

What happens after a student dies from hazing

Last week a student at the University of Buffalo, Sebastian Serafin-Bazan, died in the hospital following what the university described as a potential hazing incident.

Serafin-Bazan was only 18 years old and a pledge of the Simga Pi fraternity. Unfortunately, such a situation is not all that unfamiliar to WVU. In 2014 18-year-old freshman Nolan Burch died after he was found unconscious inside the Kappa Sigma house. Both at WVU and UB the first thing administrators did was suspend all Greek Live activities.

Now five years removed from the incident, Greek Life is still in a tumultuous position at WVU. Early in this academic year, several fraternities disassociated from WVU and formed their own independent interfraternity council. In response, President Gordon Gee put out a statement railing against the disassociated frats and banned them from campus for a decade.

This was also the year when Burch’s case was finally settled with Kappa Sigma, WVU, and others paying $3,000,000.

Not all cases are settled for money, however. In 2017 a student died at Penn State University from drinking alcohol while pledging to Beta Theta Pi and just his year three of the fraternity members were sentenced to jail time. The relationship between the university and fraternity is at such a state where Penn State is suing Beta Theta Pi to regain ownership of their fraternity house.

Incidents like these are almost completely avoidable and cause nothing but harm to all those involved and the university and its community. These incidents also drive a wedge between universities and fraternities that is hard to overcome and in most cases persists for a number of years after the fact.

St. Patrick’s Day in Morgantown

St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that gives college kids an excuse to get belligerently drunk. St. Patty’s is glorified at West Virginia University, but is this a good thing for our reputation?

It has been a little bit over a month now since St. Patrick’s Day, but I thought it would be important to shine light on the holiday that arguably cemented WVU as a top party school.

In 2012, the popular college partying social media presence “I’m Shmacked” released a video showing how crazy WVU gets on St. Patrick’s Day. The video went viral and people all around the nation started to think of WVU a little differently.

Months after St. Patrick’s day in 2012, WVU was named the number 1 party school in the nation by the Princeton Review. WVU can give some credit to I’m Shmacked for helping WVU be known universally as a “party school.”

Since the video was released, WVU has been doing all they can to control St. Patrick’s Day. “There’s been a number of significant changes over the last six or seven years related to changing the culture in and around the University and in the community,” said Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston. Since then, there have been changes in residential areas such as Sunnyside and new regulations surrounding Greek life. The city, school, and law enforcement have all been working together to make St. Patrick’s Day a safer holiday in Morgantown. For example, the holiday has been coinciding with spring break the last couple of years.

This past March, St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Sunday, a day where a lot of students were returning from Spring break. “As a result, we have planned on staffing up additional officers to work in our central business district around our nighttime entertainment,” said Police Chief Preston. The police also had extra patrols out during the day. UPD ended up issuing about 30 charges over the holiday weekend. Most of them being ABCC violations.

Of course, WVU Barstool had some quality St. Patrick’s Day content to share with us while advertising for St. Fatty’s Day. St. Fatty’s day took place a week ago at Fat Daddy’s bar in an attempt to break the record for most Jameson shots in one night because, who wouldn’t want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day again.

If you are still unaware of what St. Patrick’s day is like in Morgantown make sure to read this list. Even with police putting in their best efforts to control the wild holiday that is St. Patty’s, WVU students will still find a way to bring out their Irish side for a day. This student chose to document her 2019 St. Patrick’s Day.

 

College is already expensive, so why are universities constantly raising tuition?

By: Robert Potesta

Universities across the country are always raising their price of attendance. This seems ridiculous when the average cost of public tuition for an in-state resident is $25,290, and averages at $40,940 for an out-of-state student. This is more than enough money to leave a young adult in an unhealthy amount of debt, student loans have seen nearly 157% in cumulative growth over the past 11 years. This is an absurd amount of increase, especially for a generation that’s been given no sign at all of higher wages for graduates. Unfortunately, this leaves loads of college students stressed and scared that they may never be able to repay their debt.

There are people working on solutions for this crisis, most recently, senator Elizabeth Warren has been in the news for her “loan debt forgiveness plan.” Americans owe over $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, so regardless of whether or not you think her plan will work, we all need to at least recognize there’s an issue. Something needs to be done.

https://www.bestvalueschools.com/understanding-the-rising-costs-of-higher-education/

WVU recently approved to up their tuition by 1.4%. President E. Gordon Gee blamed the state legislature saying they didn’t make cuts to higher education funding this year.

While this may be true, that doesn’t change the fact that there was still an increase. Even little increases can add up if they continue to bump it up every couple years, it’s quite the slippery slope.

But why is this happening? What’s the point of raising tuition that a lot of people can’t afford already as is? Population increase and growth is the only direct line that can be drawn to the causation of tuition increase, basically, more students means more money. Costs of higher education have been on a steady rise since 1985, but there’s a huge difference between now and then. Most kids have a chance of attending college nowadays, unlike back then. Back then, thanks to WWII, government aid helped universities adjust to the increasing demand. But now, demand has continued to rapidly rise without as much government aid to help colleges grow. Therefore, that money required for growth comes out of the people’s pockets rather than the government’s.

https://www.bestvalueschools.com/understanding-the-rising-costs-of-higher-education/

So you can’t really blame the individual institutions for the crisis at hand, they’re just a part of a faulty system. The money has to come from somewhere, because colleges aren’t going to stop getting bigger as long as higher education continues to become more and more available.

Academic Achievement in Appalachia

How Poverty is Holding Us Back

by Sadie Janes

Despite our national reputation for having an uneducated populace, West Virginia boasts some academic stats to be proud of. However, the reason that achievement is not more widespread will come as no surprise to many. Academic outcomes often depend on the concentration of poverty, which is not good news for the country’s poorest states.

If you stay up to date on the news coming from West Virginia University, you know the school has a lot to be proud of. While often lambasted for its party reputation, WVU also boasts Fulbright scholars, Truman scholars, and is one of only 130 universities in the United States to be classified as an R1 research institution.

There have even been significant strides made by the elementary-aged students in the mountain state. A group of third, fourth, and fifth graders from Monongalia County recently became the world’s first elementary students to launch and operate a space craft, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Of course, when we look at stories like this one, it’s worth pointing out that Monongalia County is one of the wealthiest in West Virginia. In 2017, Monongalia County had the third-highest Median Household Income in the state. According to Niche.com, Monongalia County is the best county in West Virginia to raise a family based on metrics like the quality of public schools, jobs available, and home ownership.

Monongalia County, highlighted here in red, is one of the richest in West Virginia and can therefore be expected to perform better academically.

Unfortunately, Monongalia County is not the norm in West Virginia. The Median Household Income in West Virginia as a whole is significantly lower than the median in Monongalia County, coming in at just $43,469 in 2017. Certain WV counties — like McDowell — are consistently ranked among the poorest in the nation. Monongalia County boasts double the number of college graduates compared to the general state population. That could very well be because students who come to Morgantown for college from elsewhere in West Virginia recognize that the opportunities they have in Monongalia County don’t exist for them back home. So, often they choose to stay. Worse still, many abandon the state altogether, a phenomenon often called “the Brain Drain.”

This lengthy description of state vs. county economics is important (I promise) to understanding our issues when it comes to education. A 2017 study comparing public schools in Virginia came to the conclusion that fewer resources equals worse outcomes for students in areas with concentrated poverty. Unfortunately for us, concentrated poverty is rampant in West Virginia. U.S. News and World Report has our economy ranked 49th in the nation, and perhaps consequently, our education and quality of life are both ranked 45th.

The good news? People are fighting for the improvement of West Virginia public schools. Back in February, West Virginia public school teachers went on strike (again) to oppose a bill that would’ve given them a raise but would’ve have introduced charter schools into West Virginia. On the teachers’ opposition to charter schools, Mercer County Education Association President told WVNSTV the following:

“The issue is that they take public money, that are not maintained or critically looked at in the same fashion, so educators may not have to have the same educational requirements. Charter Schools may not have to give things like transportation to students.”

Given that West Virginia is one of only a handful of states that still does not allow charter schools, it’s been a hotly contested issue lately, with many educators insisting it’ll be bad for their students. John Oliver even did one of his infamous deep-dives into the issue:

Still, even with West Virginia educators fighting to make sure things don’t get worse for students, there should be more of a focus on how to make things better. But if concentrated poverty is the issue, we’ll be hard-pressed to find a solution.

Are State Budget Cuts an Excuse for Tuition Hikes?

New academic year, new price tag. West Virginia University students are well-versed in the university increasing their tuition and fees.

On April 12, WVU Board of Governors passed a tuition and fee increase for the upcoming academic year.

There will be a 3 percent increase in housing and meal plans for students. The tuition increase was passed, excluding one ‘no vote’ from SGA President, Isaac Obioma.

It can be assumed the WVU BOG and the administration are patting themselves on the back due to the fact that this is the lowest tuition increase in past 20 years.

Although, it is not surprising that students view ‘the lowest tuition hike in 20 years’, as an increased expense and have expressed their concerns.

Scholarships that offer financial assistance for students do not adjust to these hikes. Every year, students have to reevaluate their financial plan in order to keep up with the consistent tuition increases.

WVU President, E. Gordon Gee, has often referred to the state cutting funds from higher education to justify the tuition increases. While this is a relevant factor, a google search and simple mathematics proves that this claim isn’t the complete truth.

In 2017, the state cut WVU’s funding by $7.4 million, which was its largest reduction. The WVU BOG and administration increased tuition to cover the funding gap. By examining the tuition and fees from 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, tuition was increased by roughly $11 million. It’s interesting that the rate of the tuition increase was significantly higher than the cut.

A lot of variables go into tuition and fees and how the university divides/utilizes its budget – one can wonder if the higher education cut was used as a scapegoat to add a couple million to the university’s budget.

“But every university around the nation is raising tuition…”, is a statement that has been discussed but is also not completely true.

For example, universities such as Purdue and Cincinnati have enacted ‘flat tuition’ or ‘fixed tuition’. Fixed tuition entails that the price you pay when you enter college will not change throughout your college education. This policy allows students to plan/prepare their finances and will not have to worry about their scholarships failing to adjust to tuition hikes.

Source: https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2017/Q1/purdue-to-hold-tuition-flat-through-2018-19.html

Source: https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2017/Q1/purdue-to-hold-tuition-flat-through-2018-19.html

The tuition increases are certainly not ideal. It’s also unfortunate that the university abolished the Academic Common Market. In 2020, WVU will be ending the program.

West Virginia University being an affordable university allows students to enter higher education and attract non-resident students to the state. Therefore, increasing tuition increases the barrier for students looking to pursue a college degree.

Is Greek Life Responsible for Party School Reputation?

Greek Life is one of the many aspects one can partake in during their college experience. From philanthropic efforts to finding those lifelong connections, the choice to get involved in Greek Life sounds appealing. However, Greek Life also has a reputation regarding partying, hazing, and the unfortunate events that may result from the irresponsible behavior.

West Virginia University has consistently been ranked as a top party school. While Greek Life makes up about 8 percent of undergraduate students, one could wonder if the presence of Greek Life is responsible for party reputations at universities.

Cross-referencing universities that are notorious for partying with their Greek Life presence may give an insight on its impact.

Tulane University

According to 2019 Top Party School List, the champion of the party schools is Tulane University. Tulane’s undergraduate enrollment sits around 8,610 and their Greek community makes up a whopping 41 percent of the student population.

According to a student review, “…Greeks usually dictate the party scene at a school because they set the parties and thus have all the power, here bars dominate and thus frat parties are total freshmen-fests.”

Similar to West Virginia University, Tulane has enacted deferred recruitment, “The Tulane University Fraternity/Sorority Community participates in deferred recruitment, meaning entering first-time first semester freshmen may not join fraternities and sororities. Deferred recruitment allows students the opportunity to adjust to academic life at Tulane before taking on the additional time commitment of a Greek organization.”

Additionally, Tulane University administrators warns students about unrecognized organizations that are operating underground.

Source: https://greek.tulane.edu/prospective-members

Notice any similarities to WVU?

Source: https://greeklife.wvu.edu/files/d/e228ec0f-2c2f-4fda-98ed-b241edd89f7a/scorecard-fall-2018-final.pdf

Check out Sadie Janes post on My Reputation, for a deep dive into the response to a culture change at WVU and the fraternities that dissociated from WVU.

In an attempt to push for a culture change on campus, Tulane’s administration created new policies to punish the behaviors that have lead to its negative party reputation. The policies include harsher punishments for violations, keeping first-year students from attending wet Greek events during the first four weeks of classes, and preserving a dry campus during high priority times.

Howard University

Howard University is a private, historically black university, in Washington DC. Reviewing the 2019 Top Party School List, Howard sits at the number five spot.

Howard’s undergraduate enrollment is 6,354 (comparable to Tulane) and Greek Life involvement is roughly four percent of the student body. Although the campus hosts Council of Fraternal Organizations (CFO) and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), Howard does not have a strong Greek presence as Tulane University and even WVU.

Yet, all three universities made it in the top five spots for the 2019 Top Party School List.

While this only skims the surface of the relationship between party school reputations and Greek Life, I do not believe the correlation is strong enough to solely blame fraternities and sororities for universities being labelled as “party schools”. College students, involved in Greek Life or not, can have a desire to party.

Texas Tech’s Final Four riot should feel familiar for some WVU students

Following the team’s first ever Final Four March Madness win and men’s basketball national championship berth, fans and students of Texas Tech University took the streets of Lubbock, Texas to celebrate. The celebration quickly got out of hand. Athletics-fueled riots on college campuses aren’t exceedingly rare and for some of the older students here at WVU the celebration at Texas Tech should look all too familiar.

Following a win in football over, at the time, the number four ranked Baylor Bears in the fall of 2014, WVU fans, very similarly to Tech fans, took to the streets and very quickly took the celebrating too far. There are some very prevalent similarities between these two instances, to the riots themselves to how the police handled them and even what the Universities had to say. We will look at each of these areas, but first, how Texas Tech and WVU differ.

Differences

The main difference between the two schools is the size. Tech has about 8,000 more student than WVU (38,209 to 29,959) and Lubbock is much bigger than Morgantown (252,506 to 30,547). Despite the size difference, especially between the two cities, the riots themselves were incredibly similar, as we will see.

WVU also seems to have more of the party school reputation than Tech does. On Niche.com’s rankings, WVU is the third best party school in America with Tech falling in at 66.

The Celebrations

There are a few things you expect to happen in any riot, mainly things being lit on fire and property being destroyed, and both of these had plenty, and thanks to social media, mainly Twitter, we can see these exact things first-hand.

First from Texas Tech:

Fire? Check.

Destruction of property? Check.

Now from WVU:

Yup, that’s a fire.

And there’s a stop sign being torn down. Nice.

Sports riots on college campuses more or less always follow the same pattern so this might not be all that surprising, but now let’s look at how the police responded to each of these.

The Police

When faced with such a situation, there really is not a lot that the police can do. Hundreds, if not thousands, of probably intoxicated students lighting things on fire and destroying property, the number one goal is to disperse the crowd and get people off the streets. The easiest way to do this is apparently with tear gas, as the police in both of these situations went straight to using tear gas.

Starting with WVU this time (language warning):

You can clearly see, as soon as the gas comes out people start running.

At Tech it’s almost exactly the same (video embedded in link).

The statements put out by the police were also similar.

WVU: “As a result of the dangerous behavior the events were declared riots. The crowds failed to disperse after numerous warning resulting in the use of Pepper Spray and chemical munitions being deployed in order to disperse the crowds and prevent any serious injuries and minimize additional property damage.”

Texas Tech: “The crowd engaged in extremely dangerous, and disappointing, behavior including vandalizing property. We are proud, and excited, for Texas Tech, but behavior like this will not be tolerated.”

The Schools

So now after all hell has broken loose and the police have cleaned it up, how do the universities respond?

WVU president Gordon Gee expressed his disappointment directly on Twitter.

Texas Tech president Lawrence Schovanec did not address it on his own Twitter account, but the Texas Tech account did, although not as directly as Gee.

In the end, what does all of this show us? Does it show us that what happens at WVU isn’t actually that much worse than what happens at other universities? Or does this just show that there are some schools out there that are just as bad as WVU. I’m not sure one way or the other, but I do know that these sorts of things probably be happening at any university.

Finally, here’s a video of a car being flipped in Lubbock, just because it’s almost unbelievable to watch.

Sunnyside: Then and Now

With Spring in full force students are seen gathered with friends outside houses having a good time. But are students hanging out in the Sunnyside part of Morgantown as much as they used to?

Sunnyside has been a staple of West Virginia University and Morgantown since the 60’s. The area of town used to be considered the “focal point of the social scene at WVU”. Sunnyside used to be home to bars and restaurants such as The College Inn, Redbeard’s, Finnerty’s, Dr.Johns, Choosie Mothers, the Pizza Den, Mutt’s, and The Vagabond. Not to mention, the football field used to be located directly across from this bustling part of town, making Sunnyside the place to be after a game.

Image result for sunnyside wvu parties

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As you can see from the pictures above, WVU’s campus used to look quite a bit different. This Facebook page is dedicated to posting pictures of Sunnyside back in the 60’s-80’s.

In 2002, WVU introduced the “Sunnyside Up” program with the goal to completely renovate 8th Street to Campus Drive and University Avenue to the River Front. The idea was brought up mainly due to the fact that Sunnyside was becoming a dangerous place for students to live. The homes were not renovated for decades and needed to be torn down. “It became a student ghetto, to put it in the term that a lot of people began to use,” said Frank Scafella, former mayor of Morgantown. That being said, about 40 Sunnyside properties were finally sold to the University for $14.6 million in 2012.

In 2015 student apartment complexes such as University Place and University Club opened and really turned Sunnyside into a hub for quality student living options. Along with the apartments, Sheetz was introduced to the area. Sheetz opening up in Sunnyside marked a new era for food options in the neighborhood. Replacing the famous Sunnyside Superette which opened up all the way back in the 40’s.

Image result for sunnyside superette

Even with the total transformation of the beloved Sunnyside, students still find their ways to enjoy the historic part of town. Driving around Grant and Beverley Avenue on a warm Spring afternoon, you are sure to see students out and about. Sunnyside even still gets chaotic to this day. In 2014, the infamous riots after the Baylor game first broke out in Sunnyside.

Just last year, WVU Barstool put together a video showing exactly what a Saturday on Grant Avenue looks like today. Have things really changed that much?

Whether its 1960 or 2019, the Sunnyside part of Morgantown will always be there welcoming students to become a part of its history. May Sunnyside live on forever.

Spring time makes it harder than usual for students to attend class (and apparently throw away trash)

By Robert Potesta

With winter coming to an end and warm weather approaching, college students everywhere have began to clock out of their semester. This isn’t out of the ordinary, its natural for a student to be tempted to slack off in the home stretch. It’s especially interesting because the end of the semester is often times the most important, so why is it that temptation to skip grows so strong toward the end?

I guess everyone has their own reasons, but there are some legitimate ones out there. Like “Seasonal Affective Disorder” for example, which is depression associated with late fall and winter, it’s thought to be caused by a lack of sunlight. This change in mood and behavior can absolutely affect a students educational life. Especially if you’re a true victim to seasonal depression, the simple task of just attending your classes could seem impossible.

In Morgantown specifically, it seems like WVU is facing more than just class-skippers this spring. Downtown always floods with people once winter ends, students come out of the woodwork to party outside and enjoy the warmth. As great as it seems, unfortunately, our environment seems to really suffer from all of the sudden use.

Litter at the top of Frat Row in Morgantown
Litter at the top of Frat Row in Morgantown

This isn’t the only area that suffers either, there are tons of litter hot spots all over town. It’s terrible for the environment, and the most annoying part is that this is easily preventable. It’s not that hard to recycle, or at the very least bag it up and throw it away, anythings better than just leaving it on the ground. It looks terrible and shines a lot of negative light on the university.

The grass has grown over a lot of the trash on this hillside

This is the last thing WVU’s reputation needs, already being perceived as a “party school” stereotypes us enough as is. If students are going to party outside, which they will, then the least they can do is respect and take care of the land around them.