WHEELING, W.Va. — Around 24 hours after the Wheeling Jesuit University Board of Trustees announced the institution will remain open for the 2019-2020 school year, university officials delivered crushing news Thursday to students, faculty, and staff of major cuts on the horizon.
Jessica Wrobleski, the faculty council chair and associate professor of Theology at WJU, told MetroNews Thursday evening that the school will cut all but seven undergraduate programs and let go of 20 of the 50 full-time faculty at the end of the current school year. Included in the faculty cuts were Jesuits.
“I, as well as many of my colleagues, lost a job today (Thursday),” Wrobleski said. “I won’t be returning to Wheeling Jesuit in the fall.”
Wrobleski said the faculty received a list of programs remaining at the school during a meeting with university leaders late Thursday afternoon. The list of programs remaining includes Doctor of Physical Therapy, Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Science in Nursing Nursing, Respiratory Therapy, Exercise Science, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Education, and Business.
In a released statement, WJU and President Michael P. Mihalyo announced those programs remaining and said, “These programs reflect the best intersection of WJU’s deep expertise, student demand and financial sustainability.”
“Current students in majors no longer offered in Fall 2019 will receive information on how to develop a plan of study that will lead to their degree. President Mihalyo said that “we will work with every student to complete their education. While we hope that completion will lead to a WJU degree, we will also assist those who wish to transfer to another institution.”
A complete list of current programs can be found HERE.
Wrobleski added that faculty were called into meetings with Human Resources on Thursday where they were told of the notices of non-reappointment.
Athletics will remain at the school as students were made aware of all of these decisions on Thursday as well.
Wrobleski said she expects many students to leave for multiple reasons, including the continued uncertainty of the future.
“We have been told that ‘we will be open in the Fall but if you have these majors you can come back and finish out your majors,'” she said. “‘We can’t tell you anything beyond that though.'”
The cuts and announcement of deciding to remain open next year come on the heels of the university declaring a “Financial Exigency” in early March. Mihaylo released a statement to the school following the declaration that can be viewed HERE.
WJU released the following statement on Thursday: “WJU will continue to operate under the Board of Trustees’ declaration of financial exigency. President Mihalyo noted that “this means that our current challenges remain, and will continue to require leadership and a willingness to accept change.”
A May 2017 agreement with the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston helped WJU out of some financial problems but difficulties have continued. The Diocese does not operate the school.
Wrobleski believes that the school’s financial issues have a long story that dates back to the 1990’s.
“Over the past several weeks, I have had alumni who are 30 years or more out from the university talking about how Father (Thomas) Acker in the 1990’s was a big part of what got the school into the hole of debt that has been a nagging problem since then.”
“There may have other presidents that have been irresponsible as the mismanagement goes back decades. When you have an unstable financial situation, that makes it difficult for even competent and committed administrators to do a good job. ”
Wrobleski also addressed the swirling rumors of a potential purchase of Wheeling Jesuit University by West Virginia University as a way to remain financially stable. She said she posed the question to WJU officials on Thursday during meetings.
“What I was told in a response to that question was that they have been meeting with a variety of potential partners,” Wrobleski said. “Other local schools including WVU. There are still in exploring the options phase and trying to develop partnerships.
“That was not ruled out but it was also not confirmed.”
John Bolt, the Senior Executive Director, Office of Communications for WVU released a statement to MetroNews on the matter.
“West Virginia University officials at various levels frequently meet with other institutions and entities who are interested in partnerships and collaborations, which often results in rumors.”