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WVU Tech renewal panel making ample progress

Officials tasked with turning around the West Virginia University Institute of Technology said that more than nine months into the effort, they're making great strides to involve the community in revitalizing the Montgomery campus.

"We have for the first time a very solid understanding about what Tech is about and what Tech can be," said David Hendrickson, chairman of the Tech Revitalization Committee. "I think for the most part, 99 percent of people are happy with the progress we've made. The community's buying into the fact that everyone's trying to do a little bit to push the campus forward and coming together and feeling happy with the progress." 

At a community forum at the Montgomery campus on Thursday, one member of the Tech Revitalization Committee said the committee is ditching the recommendations of a state-commissioned improvement report in favor of a 2011 plan from WVU.

"Essentially, the Tech Revitalization Committee is being used to implement WVU's Sightlines Report rather than the legislatively mandated Tech Revitalization Plan," Dorothy Phillips, a member of the 11-person Tech Revitalization Committee said on Thursday.

Phillips said Friday that her main sticking point was that the Revitalization Committee is asking the Legislature for $7.8 million to improve campus infrastructure at Tech with no money devoted to academic improvements.

"I give the committee credit for all the other things they've done," said Phillips. "I just am concerned that they failed to mention academics." 

For months, the Tech Revitalization Committee has discussed a way to turn around the beleaguered Montgomery institution, largely using the recommendations from a turnaround report commissioned by the Legislature.

The revitalization report, which has formed the blueprint for the Revitalization Committee, said dramatically increasing enrollment was WVU Tech's first priority and estimated that the school needed $5 million to $7 million a year for the next five years and $100 million down the road to stay afloat. The report laid out a series of big-picture fixes for the school, including facility upgrades and academic improvements.

So far, the revitalization team has corrected problems with the deteriorating infrastructure at Tech and is requesting another $7.8 million from the legislature to improve the physical buildings at Tech.

 "Is that going to fix everything? No," said Hendrickson. "But it's going to bring the campus back to where others are in the state and make it go forward."

"I understand [Phillips] has a different opinion, but we really have done a lot of hard work down there," Hendrickson continued. "We've spent hundreds of hours on committee meetings, had an online survey to get feedback and talked to classified staff. I think we've come up with a pretty good plan for improving Tech into the next few years."

Tech has had to make some tough decisions based on the revitalization report. They nixed the football program, consolidated classes, tour down a building and are assessing ways to streamline operations.

Hendrickson said that Phillips may disagree with some of the actions of the Revitalization committee, but "I don't think they reflect a majority of the community in Montgomery." 

Phillips said Friday that she was very pleased with how the meeting went and felt that her message to the Committee was heard.

"Going forward, I think there will be more negotiating," said Phillips. "I'm quite pleased."

Reach Amy Julia Harris at amy.harris@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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