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WVSU students, faculty say what they want in a new leader

INSTITUTE, W.Va. -- Students, faculty, staff and community members met at West Virginia State University Friday morning to share their thoughts about the university's future with two consultants hired to help find a new president.

The search began after longtime President Hazo W. Carter Jr. announced in August that he would leave his post by July 1.

Carter's announcement came one week after WVSU faculty members passed a no-confidence resolution against him by a 67-15 vote, with 14 abstentions. Many faculty members stressed they felt no personal animus against Carter, but said the university was stagnating under his leadership.

On Friday, Barbara Ladner, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said the school needs to promote itself better.

"Marketing of ourselves has been absent," Ladner told the consultants. "The president needs to make sure that is happening" and "needs to improve our marketing and fundraising."

Betty Asher and James Lincoln -- from the Florida-based consulting firm of Greenwood/Asher and Associates, which helps find people to lead educational and nonprofit institutions -- led the discussions. The firm recently helped find presidents for West Virginia University, Ohio University, Ohio State University and the University of Maryland.

"We will be talking to hundreds of people around the country in the next 60 days," Asher said, "to recruit a new president for the university."

Tim Ruhnke, a WVSU biology professor and chairman of the Faculty Senate, said the new president should be "a person who is enthusiastic about the institution and radiates that enthusiasm."

Political science professor Frank Vaughan agreed.

"We are really not a dynamic university, but we have the capacity to be," he said. "We have students who, for a variety of reasons, would not get a college education if they were not here.

"A lot of our current dissatisfaction is because of stagnation," Vaughan said. "We need someone who will work with the state Legislature, the [state Higher Education Policy Commission], faculty and students."

William Palmer, a senior majoring in business management, said, "We need someone who is personable with students, who doesn't mind coming in and having lunch with us.  . . . There has been no interaction between the president and students here.

"Another duty of the president is fundraising," Palmer said. "There has been a lack of that here, too."

He praised the long history of WVSU, which opened in 1891.

"We should be proud that Carter G. Woodson was part of the university," he said. Woodson, who lived from 1875 to 1950, was a major national scholar in black history.

Cody Cunningham, a 34-year-old freshman, said a new president should "start lobbying the government for funding. We need to talk about our future."

Cunningham also said some students have problems dealing with current university officials in the academic affairs, financial and security divisions.

Bill Rollyson, a senior, said, "We have a beautiful campus, but we need new housing and better dorms."

Donna Willis, a 56-year-old WVSU alumna who lives in Institute, said she believes that when the state Legislature "took community colleges from universities, it was a really inappropriate financial decision."

In August, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution expressing "dissatisfaction with the failure of the state Legislature to adequately provide funds for the separation of WVSU and the now-named Kanawha Valley Community and Technical College."

WVSU lost "nearly $5 million," the resolution states, by the creation of KVCTC.

State higher education officials have criticized WVSU leaders' response to the separation of the community college. They say that while other state schools that faced the same issue made changes to deal with it, WVSU simply asked for more money from the state.

Charles T. Ledbetter, a retired professor of education, gave the search committee a detailed statement of what a new president should do.

In his statement, Ledbetter said the new "president's role is made more complex by the institution's background as historically black.  . . . The uniqueness of the university's history is one that any WVSU president must understand, embrace and integrate into all areas of the operation of the university."

Thomas F. Guetzloff, a chemistry professor and faculty representative on the Board of Governors, recently wrote, "Many have wondered why the faculty did not push for institutional change years ago, especially since dissatisfaction in the workings of WVSU has been expressed at faculty meetings for several years.  . . .

"Such votes are not easy and cannot be taken lightly. It was not until all information was made available to the entire faculty that it was clear a change in leadership was needed.

"Now the entire campus community intends to lay the groundwork so that our new president will have an institution ready for a new direction," Guetzloff said.

Also Friday, WVSU spokeswoman Pat Dickinson released information about the Presidential Search Advisory Committee that will recommend candidates for president.

The committee is co-chaired by WVSU Board of Governors member Vincent Williams, a deputy attorney general in Tennessee, and John Thralls, former interim chancellor of the state Higher Education Policy Commission.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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