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Marshall faculty representative says Board of Governors' statement a mistake

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The faculty representative on the Marshall University Board of Governors said that it was a mistake for the board to release a letter of support for President Stephen Kopp immediately following a Faculty Senate vote of no confidence in Kopp.

Marty Amerikaner, the faculty representative and a professor of psychology, stressed that he did not want Kopp to be fired. But Amerikaner said he did not sign on to the Board of Governors' statement.

"By releasing that letter so quickly, it sent a message to the faculty of not being very open to, or not responsive to, the concerns that were being raised," Amerikaner said. "This was an expression of a lot of dismay and frustration; there's a need of new ways of doing business."

More than two-thirds of the faculty who voted recently said they had no confidence in Kopp. Dr. Joseph Touma, the Board of Governors chairman, released a statement immediately after Wednesday's faculty announcement expressing "overwhelming support" for Kopp.

The brouhaha stems from moves Kopp made to try to address funding cuts passed down from the Legislature and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July contains cuts of nearly 9 percent for all of the state's colleges and universities. For Marshall, that will mean about $5 million less in state funding next year.

Last month, Kopp swept the money in most of the university's departmental accounts into one central account. The move was in preparation for a plan to institute a more centralized budgeting process, but it was done overnight without notifying the faculty.

Following faculty outrage, Kopp quickly apologized and returned the funds. Changes to the budgeting process have been put on hold.

"That went over like a lead balloon," said Matt Turner, Kopp's chief of staff.

Oshel Craigo, a member of the Board of Governors, said that Kopp's centralized budget proposal was probably dead, a victim of poor communication.

"I believe that President Kopp is doing a great job for Marshall, if there's something missing it is probably people skills," said Craigo, a former state senator. "There's a lot of players in a community like Marshall, you've got to do a lot of selling, you've got to sell your ideas."

Turner said the university has established a budget work group, with representatives from faculty and staff, student government, the deans' council and the administration.

The group, which will look for measures to address the funding cuts, met for the first time Wednesday.

Amerikaner was fully supportive of the work group.

"The overriding issue in this particular moment is the whole idea of shared governance," he said. "There are important constituency groups all over campus that have expertise and perspective."

In a statement released after the faculty's no-confidence vote, Kopp said that the university's budget challenges still remain and that he didn't see any more state funding on the horizon.

Mike McKown, director of the state budget office, confirmed that more state money was unlikely and said that there was a "very good probability" of even more budget cuts in coming years.

The Marshall Board of Governors will hold a special meeting May 9 to consider tuition and fee levels. Preliminary tuition and fee schedules are due to the state by May 10. The Board of Governors will vote on a full Marshall budget for 2014 in June.

After that, the university plans to create another committee to study the long-term budget and the budget process.

Other than Amerikaner, Touma and Craigo, the Marshall Board of Governors includes Miriah Young, Michael Farrell, David Haden, John Hess, Dale Lowther, Joseph McDonie, Michael Sellards, Phyllis Arnold, Letitia Neese Chafin, Verna Gibson, Ed Howard, Wyatt Scaggs and Raymond Harrell.Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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