Greetings fellow Stewards and potential Stewards,
It is truly a great day to be a Mountaineer.
My name is Frank A. DeGeorge. I have been a member of the faculty of College of Business and Economics (B&E) at WVU for most of the last 21 years. Below is my story. It mirrors for my particular case what too many members of our WVU community are experiencing in our own departments, majors & classes, jobs, alumni network, and certainly in our own friends & families - devastating, unnecessary, and long-term counterproductive actions, even betrayal, by the WVU we love.
Stewards of WVU are here to say, "There are better options."
Myself and some other members of the affected WVU community, many of which understandably seek to remain unnamed, developed the Stewardship Plan because its ideas are good for WVU and need to be part of this conversation. We're sharing it because we believe the WVU community deserves to know this vital information about all the future possibilities available to WVU. And then we can choose our future!
Together, we are unified towards a single and focused mission; to help ensure a university that continues to meet the needs of our students, our campus and our communities now and in the future.
Please review the materials on this website and if your conscience moves you to sign your name to the Stewardship Plan, please do so. Together we are the Stewards of West Virginia University
Pax et bonum
-Frank A. DeGeorge and all of us, Stewards of WVU
In May of 2023 I was informed that my Teaching Assistant Professor (TAP) contract would not be renewed for the 2023-2024 academic year. At the end of my two-month contract extension, I officially retired from the University. In early August, I was contacted by my former department chair and informed that she was not able to fill three of the five classes that I was scheduled to teach in the Fall term. She asked if I would consider teaching the three courses. I agreed and signed an Adjunct Faculty contract on August 17, 2023, a day after classes officially began. In September, my department chair asked if I would be available to teach three more classes in the Spring 2024 term. I committed to do so and I am currently on the schedule to teach three classes.
On September 21, 2023, B&E informed eight of my colleagues that their contracts would not be renewed effective at the end of the May 2024 term. All eight of the contract non-renewals were TAPs. I was very disappointed for my colleagues. I was even more disappointed at the senior administration of the University for forcing my dean to sacrifice eight TAP’s in order to help come up with the $45 million budget shortfall that the Transition Plan does not address.
From an ethical standpoint, targeting any group of employees for involuntary work force reduction is at least questionable, and immoral at the worst. From a business perspective, targeting TAP’s is just a bad business decision for both the short-run and the long run.
TAPs are the teaching workhorses for the University. They generally teach twice as many courses as their tenured/tenure track colleagues (research professors) and get paid sometimes as much as half as much. Yet a class being taught by a TAP generates the exact same amount of tuition revenue as if the class were taught by a research professor. Regarding teaching, TAPs are the most efficient resource that the University has it’s arsenal.
So why was my dean, the dean of the College of Business and Economics, an intelligent businessperson, targeting TAPs? He had no choice. Apparently, the Provost office told him that he had to cut his budget by $1 million. As this cut was not officially a Reduction in Force (RIF) my dean was not permitted to eliminate research faculty. The only tools available to my dean to meet the $1 million savings are TAPs, Service Assistant Professors, College staff and supplies. My dean made the best quantitative business decision to satisfy the current requirement. He non-renewed eight TAPs. This decision was dictated by the Provost office. It was a very bad business decision.
Most decisions have short-term and long-term implications. Though reducing TAP’s satisfies the short term goal, it will have a very significant impact on the future of West Virginia University. In August of 2023, my department chair asked me to return because she was not able to fill three of my classes with the remaining TAPs or by any of the research professors in the department. In the Fall of 2024, B&E will have to absorb at least 32 courses vacated by the eight TAPs whose contracts expire in May 2024.
Absorbing 32 courses can only be accomplished by three actions. 1) Eliminate the classes. Bad for the students (or customers). 2) Increase class sizes (bad for both the students and the faculty). 3) Require research professors to teach more classes (very bad for our best research professors). Each of the three options has unfavorable consequences for the future of WVU. The last of the options however has particularly bad consequences. When the University eventually reaches the point that it must REQUIRE research faculty to teach more classes, OUR BEST RESEARCH PROFESSORS WILL LEAVE THE UNIVERSITY so that they can continue to pursue their research. This is what research professors do and our research professors do it very well.
Losing our best research professors, will impact the Universities revenues and will jeopardized the University’s R-1 status making it harder to attract the best research professors.
Eliminating TAPs is a very bad decision by the Gee administration and it is required to accomplish the $45 million cuts under the Transformation Plan.
Against this backdrop, on or about October 1, I began to analyze the financial statements of the University, a professional exercise I've done for countless businesses throughout my entire career (ask my students!). I had questions along the way and I asked the senior administration for answers to my questions. Initially they responded remarkable quickly. I was grateful. I was not able to find anything of consequence from the actual financial statement found in the front of the Financial Report. I continued to dig, and look for something to explain how the University came to need a $45 million deficit.
I found the answer on page 102 of the 2022 Financial Report at footnote 26. There the University provides a detail of operating expenses by functional classification. It was there that I discovered the General Instructional Support (G.I.S.) functional classification. It was there that I found an alternative to the Transformation Plan.
At the encouragement of a very small group of trusted advisors, the Stewardship Plan took form on Sunday, October 22. Every person (except one) who I have shared the Stewardship Plan with has been very supportive. To a person, they told me that this alternative proposal need to get out there for consideration. And to a person, each of them told me that they could not sign their names to the Stewardship Plan.
Without a signature of someone to take ownership of the Stewardship Plan (and with the administration learning of it through our communications in the process), my very small team and I were prepared to stop. Until Mr. Gee announced the resignation of Mr. Alsop at 1:00 on Tuesday. At 2:00 my team and I decided to go forward. We went live a little before 5:00 and received our first signature at 5:07, a college student who voted their conscience in favor of the Stewardship Plan. We cleared 100 signatures within hours and are just getting started!...