WLU Board of Governors meet to discuss campus updates and Dr. W. Franklin Evans’ alleged plagiarism

Historic Shaw Hall has been on campus for over 100 years, this lettering can be seen above the entrance doors leading into the building.

West Liberty University’s (WLU) Board of Governors met last Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in the Board of Governors meeting room on the second floor of Shaw Hall on WLU’s main campus. The regularly scheduled public meeting started at 4 p.m. after a call to order, roll call and statement of the university mission. Attendees were able to join in-person—following all campus COVID-19 safety precautions—and via Zoom through a previously provided link.

The board welcomed a new member, alumnus Thomas Cervone, current resident of Knoxville, Tenn. WLU President Dr. W. Franklin Evans introduced Cervone to those in attendance saying the university was “honored” to welcome him to the board. Cervone, who attended via Zoom, said a brief thank you.

Next, a presentation by Chris Wade with CMTA Energy Solutions described expected energy savings for the university with recent updates to campus. There were no public comments and the minutes from the full Board of Governors meeting on Aug. 18 were approved without opposition. Minutes from the Sept. 29 Executive Committee meeting were also approved. No action items were on the board’s agenda.

Evans gave his president’s report starting with explaining the university’s five year (2019 through 2024) strategic priorities plan. The strategies listed included academic success, branding, community engagement, operational excellence and student experience. During his report, he mentioned the fall 2021 convocation that took place on Sept. 15 to welcome first-year freshmen to campus. At this time, he admitted to not properly citing information in his convocation speech and mentioned the memorandum he sent to the “West Liberty University Family” via email on Sept. 20.

Following President Evans’ update, reports from President Cabinet members Interim Provost Bonnie Suderman and Vice President of Enrollment Scott Cook briefed the Board on important scheduling and enrollment updates this fall.

Suderman started with saying she assures as a cabinet member that “the number one concern is and always will be the education of students and opportunity for them to succeed.” Moving forward, she discussed the recent creation of the spring 2022 semester schedule and expressed her goal of handling scheduling concerns before the permanent provost is appointed so “they [new provost] will be able to concentrate on other important tasks.”

Cook followed up with enrollment reports giving estimates on enrolled students and number of students in on-campus housing this year compared to prior years. WLU has seen a decline in enrollment and student housing this semester. He repeatedly remarked on the university’s displeasure with the declines, claiming the reductions occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Final enrollment estimates for fall 2021 will be available soon.

Faculty Representative, Jason Metz, discussed a recent faculty vote regarding a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, 125 of 145 faculty participated. Results revealed 86% of participating faculty were in favor of the mandate, arguing requirements for other mandated vaccines are already in place for students and faculty to ensure campus safety.

After the COVID-19 vaccine discussion, Metz reported on faculty discussions and actions regarding President Evans lack of proper attribution in speeches. Metz informed the Board of a four-question survey sent to faculty members where 66% [95 faculty members] anonymously responded to the survey. Of those who voted, 86% felt President Evans leadership has been compromised, 45% believed issues could be resolved through lesser punitive action, 73% stated they would choose “no confidence” if a vote took place as of Oct. 13 and 60% believe he should resign. (All statistics listed above provided at the Board of Governors meeting are confirmed by Sean Ryan, faculty chairman.)

Mackenzie Jones, Student Government Association (SGA) President, was unable to attend but Chairman Rich Lucas read her report to the board. Her report contained updates on campus activities for Homecoming week. The reports ended with Angie Zambito-Hill, executive director of the WLU Foundation and a financial report by Lori Hudson, vice president of fiscal affairs.

An Executive Session was then called, and the board left to attend the session—Dr. Evans was not present. Returning from Executive Session at 6:28 p.m., the board took no formal action on behalf of Evans’ plagiarism and referred the matter to WLU’s Human Resources Department.

Lucas was quoted in a release by Maureen Zambito, WLU’s director of media relations, saying, “Human Resources will provide the Board of Governors with all pertinent materials and answer any questions the board may have. Human Resources will come back to the board and the Board of Governors will make the final decision. The Board of Governors will reconvene to make the final decision after proper notice and time frames following Freedom of Information Act requirements and West Virginia HEPC regulations,” said Lucas.

The meeting was adjourned and the next scheduled meeting of WLU’s Board of Governors will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, at 4 p.m. in Shaw Hall.

On Oct. 20, 2021, West Liberty University’s Board of Governors held a special meeting to address President W. Franklin Evans alleged plagiarism. According to WLU’s News and Media Relations, “A motion for termination of the president was made by Richard Carter and seconded by Jason Metz. It failed by a vote of 7-5.” For more information, visit westliberty.edu/bog.

Staff Writer for the Wheeling Intelligencer and WLU Alumnus, Alan Olson, was also in attendance at the Board of Governors meeting and wrote an article which can be read by clicking this link.

Any questions or concerns regarding the content of this article should be directed to Annalise Murphy, editor-in-chief of The Trumpet, by emailing [email protected]