Faculty at Wheeling Jesuit University Speak Out on School’s Financial Crisis, Urge Administration To Honor Contracts

Wheeling Jesuit University’s board of trustees has declared a ‘financial exigency’ at the school, officials confirmed Tuesday. Photo by Scott McCloskey

In the wake of news that Wheeling Jesuit University is in financial crisis, the Faculty Council at the university is speaking out via a resolution adopted Friday.

The faculty released the following statement regarding the situation:

“This is a difficult time for everyone, and the faculty recognizes the incredible pressure that leadership is facing,” said Faculty Council Chair and Associate Professor of Theology Jessica Wrobleski. “This resolution is not to question the administration’s intent, but to call them– even in this time of difficulty–to make decisions that prioritize people over budgets, as our Catholic tradition demands.”

The faculty members are asking university officials to offer teach-out plans to students in the event the school closes. Faculty members also want assurances that existing employment contracts will be honored and that they have an opportunity to offer input into the future of the school. WJU is the only Catholic university in West Virginia.

The resolution “points to the financial and other sacrifices that WJU employees, including but by no means limited to faculty, have made over the years for the sake of the school’s survival and its students’ flourishing.”

According to the resolution, faculty members are asking the administration to follow “best practices for faculty involvement during financial exigency. To date, faculty have been excluded from the process.”

Last week, the university Board of Trustees declared a financial exigency at the school. WJU President Michael Mihalyo said the action was taken at a special session of the board.

“It was a difficult meeting, as trustees and administrators considered how best to bring the WJU mission forward and continue to serve our students in light of our current financial challenges,” he said.

In May 2017, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston purchased WJU in an effort to assure the school’s future. Earlier that year, WJU’s trustees appealed to the diocese to take action to help secure the university’s long-term future and lower its operating costs.

Mihalyo said the board and university community will be working with state and government officials, regional and community leaders, and the university’s accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, to determine the best path forward.

Since that time, university officials have made no other comments regarding the financial crisis or the future of the institution. Students, faculty and alumni have expressed dismay via online posts.

According to the WJU website, graduation exercises are slated for 10:30 a.m. May 4 in the McDonough Center on campus.

Staff Writer Linda Comins contributed to this report.

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