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Dive Brief:

  • The American Association of University Professors on Thursday criticized West Virginia University’s plans for dramatic cuts, arguing that faculty don’t appear to have been meaningfully consulted. 
  • Last week, WVU announced its intention to eliminate almost three dozen programs and nearly 170 faculty positions to counter a $45 million deficit.
  • AAUP, the nation’s leading faculty group, urged the university to articulate how faculty will be involved in handling its financial crisis and said it will monitor WVU closely.

Dive Insight:

WVU has been attempting to stem its financial issues for years. 

In December 2020, the university’s president announced an academic restructuring plan that has led to multiple department mergers. Now, WVU is considering discontinuing all of its language programs, along with other programs like art history and biometric systems engineering, citing low student interest.

Under AAUP’s academic freedom standards, colleges must “meaningfully involve” faculty when deciding to discontinue a program or department. They must also make their decisions based on educational considerations.

“This does not appear to be the case at WVU,” Irene Mulvey, president of AAUP, said in a statement Thursday. “Slashing multiple core academic programs without drawing on faculty expertise would seem to undermine not only that mission but WVU’s role in serving the common good.”

AAUP said academic cuts may be necessary when a college is facing financial exigency, which it defines as a budgetary crisis threatening an institution’s academic integrity. But WVU has not said its financial deficit has reached that level, the group said. The organization also requires colleges to involve faculty when declaring a budgetary emergency.

WVU is not the only institution on AAUP’s radar. 

“By and large, academic program closings across the nation in recent years fail to meet these standards, and represent a violation of the principles on which American higher education should operate,” Mulvey said.