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MINUTES: November 15, 2018 phone meeting
Summary notes from Blue Ribbon Commission on Higher Education
Phone meeting on November 15
Members participating: [Delegate Atkinson, Mr. Becker, President Boggess, Ms. Cappellanti, Dr. Courts, Delegate Espinsoa, Mr. Farrell, President Gee, President Gilbert, President Jenkins, Mr. Lee, Mr. Lewis, President Martin, Mr. Paine, Mr. Payne]
President Gee convened the meeting at 2:30 p.m. and asked Amy Garbrick to call the roll.
President Gee asked if there were any corrections or additions to the summary notes from the October 26 meeting. Hearing none, a motion was made and the commission voted to approve the notes.
President Gee asked Mr. Payne for an update from the governance subcommittee. Mr. Payne began by thanking the regional institution presidents and others who have shared input about HEPC. He then referred the commission to the executive summary and outlined the proposal. The governance subcommittee is calling for an Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) to replace the HEPC. With a goal of improving efficiency and maximizing legal stability, the OPE would, upon request by an institution, provide services to public colleges and universities. OPE would also have the opportunity to provide services to private and independent colleges and universities. The list of proposed services appears in the draft executive summary of the proposal. OPE would be overseen by a board of 10 members, one appointed by each of the state’s public colleges and universities. This board would hire, fire, and set the compensation of the OPE director.
President Gee thanked Mr. Payne for his update. He asked if any members of the commission had comments or questions.
Mr. Lewis complimented the subcommittee on the draft document. He offered two points to consider as revisions: (1) either remove academic program review altogether or implement a criterion that would exempt schools from program review based on their distance/mileage away from other institutions; and (2) reduce the number of board members from 10 to 9, so that WVU and WVU Tech would be represented by one appointee, not two.
President Gilbert suggested that the OPE should manage EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), a National Science Foundation-funded grant program. President Gilbert also asked Mr. Farrell if it would be useful to create a table showing what is currently being done by HEPC, what would be done by OPE under the subcommittee’s proposal, and what would not be done by any agency if OPE is approved.
Mr. Farrell agreed such a table would be useful. He also said one of his concerns about this proposal was accountability to the Legislature. HEPC was established in statute to be accountable to the Legislature. He said an analysis of HEPC in West Virginia Code was necessary to make sure there is no confusion about accountability or responsibility later.
Mr. Payne said that such a review of statutes was in progress.
President Gee referred to HEPC as a “super governing board.” Mr. Farrell reminded the commission that in two separate presentations, Dr. Jay Cole said HEPC was a coordinating board. President Gee suggested that Dr. Cole might want to correct or clarify his remarks.
Dr. Cole confirmed that, in his scholarly opinion, HEPC is a coordinating board. He went on to say that in the 18 years since HEPC’s creation, there have been constant pendulum swings between good relations and bad relations, trust and mistrust, strong communication and poor communication between HEPC and institutions, and that we have reached a high-water mark of tension given the current circumstances. Dr. Cole said he would not speak for President Gee, but that he felt this cycle of tension and distrust required a solution.
President Jenkins said he had three things the proposal should address. He agreed that responsibility for managing EPSCoR needed to be determined. He said data collection and reporting, especially data related to any funding formula, needed to be done by a state office. He is also concerned about program review and competition beyond institutions in close proximity.
President Gee observed that EPSCoR has been handled poorly by HEPC and that he would organize a separate discussion with President Gilbert and President Jenkins to work on EPSCoR.
President Gilbert disagreed, saying that EPSCoR has been handed well by HEPC. He also acknowledged that he would not be neutral, that President Gee would not be neutral, and that President Jenkins would not be neutral if EPSCoR were to be managed by any one of them as a single institution, so a neutral office or agency needed to be in charge.
President Boggess complimented the subcommittee on its work. She reminded everyone that all institutions in the state do research, if not as much as WVU or Marshall, so all institutions have an interest in the research and EPSCoR discussions. She said that program review needs to be discussed now, not later, given the importance of this issue to the regional institutions. She also said that there needs to be a fiscal analysis to determine the cost of this change from HEPC to OPE.
Dr. Paine said this issue reminded him of the recent changes made by the Governor to the K-12 system, which involved eliminating some offices and positions and consolidating others, all of which led to significant savings and efficiencies. He expects the change from HEPC to OPE would also generate savings and efficiencies.
President Martin said she has not spoken with all of the other regional presidents and she feels duty-bound to confer with them about the governance subcommittee’s proposal.
Mr. Payne offered to attend the next Council of Presidents meeting to join President Martin in speaking with the regional presidents. That meeting will be Friday, November 16, prior to the HEPC meeting. President Martin agreed and Mr. Payne is scheduled to attend.
President Gee mentioned plans for a possible meeting with the Governor to share the finance subcommittee’s proposal and the importance of getting this proposal in front of the Governor as soon as possible.
President Gee asked Mr. Farrell for an update on the collaboration subcommittee.
Mr. Farrell reported that he has asked presidents of all institutions to submit examples and ideas of collaboration. He is also hosting a meeting after the HEPC meeting on Friday, November 16, to collect input.
President Gee asked for other items or comments. Hearing none, he adjourned the meeting about 3:05 p.m.