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Gee, Who Could’ve Guessed?


Gordon Gee gives his not-quite-an-exit-yet interview:

Where do the humanities stand in that vision for universities’ futures? Mr. Gee called them fundamental, even though half of the majors on the chopping block this fall fell under the humanities umbrella. Mr. Gee himself speaks two of the languages, Italian and German, that WVU will no longer teach this fall.

When posed this question, Mr. Gee said the humanities have “lost their way.” He thinks these disciplines must “return to their roots.”

“So many of our humanities programs have become less focused on being humanistic and more focused on programs that I think are not as conducive to what the students and what the American public needs,” he said. “…We have so many programs that really are sort of irrelevant. In many ways, the liberal arts have become illiberal. That’s a problem that we all need to face.”

But “we had to cut the liberal arts because they’re bad” wasn’t the best part of the interview. Here’s a nugget:

But he staunchly believes that WVU made the right decision. His decision to stay on until next school year is because he wants to oversee the academic transformation process, which makes WVU “more attractive” to its next leader, he believes.

“Anytime you’re put in a position in which you have to make difficult decisions, if you don’t feel the weight of those decisions, then you’re in the wrong business,” he said. “Saying that, I feel very strongly — and of course, the world has proven — that we did exactly the right thing.”

Post-cuts, Mr. Gee characterized the university’s position as strong. He pointed to an April rating by credit rating agency Fitch that concluded WVU’s current financial outlook is stable.

Faculty? Bunch of whiners. Students? People we should definitely take care of as long as they aren’t loudly protesting something. But the really important people? The credit rating agencies and the senior administrators who will need to clean up the mess that Gordon Gee has made of WVU. I’m sure Paul will have more to say about this, but the idea that Gee needed to stay on for the massacre of the humanities for the sake of the next President is a perfect illustration of senior university administration as self-licking ice cream cone; a class of bureaucrats that has largely self-created and that exists primarily to service itself. Recall that while Gee was carving up the liberal arts and putting faculty out of work, admin at WVU insisted that there could be no cuts to administrative salaries because it would “devastate morale.”

The problem with WVU is that Gee made the same bet on increased enrollment as Eli Capilouto at Kentucky, without taking into account the huge differences between the positions of UK and WVU. As anyone should have known, Morgantown ain’t Lexington, and the quite reasonable prospect of increasing enrollment at the latter was utterly absurd at the former. I’m no fan of Eli but at least he knows what he’s doing (the Grand Moff Tarkin analogy is appropriate). Gee and his cohorts decided to execute a playbook developed by the trans-institutional administrative class without bothering to think very hard about whether it would work in the specific context of West Virginia. It didn’t, of course, although I suspect that a substantial number of associate deans became deans at other institutions before everything went to shit.

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