BLUEFIELD, WV (WVNS) — According to a release from a staff representative at Bluefield State University, some faculty gave a Vote of No Confidence in the school’s President Robin Capehart, the BSU Board of Governors, and the Executive VP and General Counsel Brent Benjamin.

On October 28, 2022, BSU faculty members reportedly had quorum at a general faculty meeting, where they proposed and passed a ‘Vote of No Confidence’ towards members of the BSU the administration.

The BSU Faculty Senate provided a list of only some of the grievances that were alleged.

  • Numerous violations of West Virginia State codes, state higher ed policies, and accreditation criteria concerning communication, administrative procedure, tenure, and shared governance
  • The unsanctioned administrative dissolution of the faculty senate
  • The elimination of tenure and tenure protections
  • The elimination of peer review for tenure and promotion
  • The elimination of required faculty peer review of courses, curricula, and academic hires
  • The denial/nullification of democratically elected senate officers
  • The dissolution of the Office and absence of an Officer for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Elimination of the protections required for academic freedom and freedom of speech
  • Creation of a toxic and authoritarian work environment harming institutional effectiveness

We wish for all faculty, students, and staff of all state colleges and universities in the Virginias, and around the nation, to be aware of this brazen and unlawful administrative assault on faculty, on tenure, on shared governance, on democratic processes, on institutional policies and procedures, and all of the rights and responsibilities of faculty that pertain thereto. 

Bluefield State Faculty Senate

According to Bluefield State University, the meeting, which was supposed to be posted on the Secretary of State’s website a week in advance, reportedly was not.

Charlie Cole, Chair of the Bluefield State Board of Governors, said the Vote of No Confidence came after the Board of Governors voted with a heavy majority to dissolve the BSU Faculty Senate in favor of a Faculty Assembly which would be open to all faculty members.

That the Faculty Senate is fighting expanded direct and unfiltered communications between the faculty and the Board of Governors is shocking. During the past four years, BSU’s Board of Governors has taken a school that was a declining institution in financial distress and has turned Bluefield State around. BSU has Been named a “Top 12 public college” in the South by US News & World Report, achieved University status, achieved financial stability, rising from dead last among West Virginia’s public universities to the second best in the State, become one of the fastest growing HBCUs in the nation, Established on-campus housing, Expanded BSU’s intercollegiate sports programs, adding nearly a dozen new sports, including football, and provided pay raises for faculty and staff—even during the pandemic.

The Bluefield State University Board of Governors has a proven track record of responsibility and accountability to its students, their parents, the community, and the West Virginia taxpayer. Expanding direct communications with BSU’s faculty continues this progress.

Bluefield State University

In regards to the elimination of tenure, Cole said that was in no way truthful. Peer reviewing for tenure and promotions remains in place at Bluefield State University. Only a post-tenure review was added for tenured faculty members. This review is reportedly done every three years through the Dean of the specific college in which the professor teaches and the Provost. Only if requirements of the post-tenure review are not met, will tenure then be taken from said educator.

In the last couple years, Bluefield State University revitalized their athletics department by adding football and other sports. The school also began rolling graduate programs and student housing improvements aimed at improving student life while on campus and after they graduate.

When asked where everyone goes from here, Cole said nothing changes. The Board of Governors’ goal is to create a adequate social and learning environment for all students and faculty. Dissolving the Faculty Senate for a Faculty Assembly is just one step in doing that.