Due to a problem with the blog, the first published draft was woefully inadequate and had many grammatical errors.  Those have been corrected (I hope).  All errors are my fault regardless.  

This is an introduction to the faculty’s attempted ousting of Robin Capehart.  The local press largely ignored many of the facts surrounding the case, and optioned to not conduct an investigative piece despite my encouragement they do so.  This piece elaborates on the accomplishments of Capehart against the backdrop of those who opposed him on campus.  In terms of academics and freedom on campus, Capehart was the best president I have ever served under.  

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When Robin Capehart came to campus some 8 years ago, it was my first semester as an assistant professor.  Capehart was the consummate responsible president who believed in making the college grow from the “high school on the hill” and into a real university with academic heft and seriousness.  As someone who dealt with the state government and served in the state government’s tax office, Capehart succeeded.   The college become an university because of his efforts.  He also increased payroll and incentives for professors, especially if they produced real academic quality work.  It was the first time that WLU had instituted professional development monies for professors to present papers, and publish scholarly work–a practice now since rescinded since he left.  Capehart also oversaw the many infrastructure improvements, which was a necessity since WLU was literally falling apart after decades of neglect.

According to WestLiberty Online, Capehart accomplished much:

  • West Liberty University has experienced six consecutive years of growth in enrollment.
  • Summer school enrollment has increased 84%.
  • The number of students enrolled ages 25 and over has increased 12.1%.
  • West Liberty University’s private fundraising has increased by over 400%.
  • West Liberty University has increased its scholarship offerings from $1.7 million to $4.5 million – a 268% increase.
  • West Liberty University has added 15 new degrees and certifications.
  • The University’s retention rate exceeds the rate of its national peers by 10.4% for full-time students and 32% for part-time students.
  • The number of online classes has increased by nearly 800%.
  • Total salaries and benefits for all full-time faculty members have increased 29%.
  • West Liberty University has increased funding for professional development 833%.
  • West Liberty University’s television station, WLU-TV Channel 14, has expanded into 100,000 homes in northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio.
  • The campus at West Liberty University has undergone considerable changes including:
    • The current construction of Campbell Hall – a $22 million health science building;
    • The renovation of Shaw Hall;
    • The opening of the Highlands Center;
    • A $1.3 million renovation of the football field and locker rooms.
    • Upgrades to the Student Union and Blatnik Hall.
    • In October 2008, West Liberty State College offered its first graduate level program – a Masters of Education.
    • In May 2009, West Liberty State College became West Liberty University.
  • In July 2012, West Liberty University became one of only nine public institutions in the country to offer a Masters of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree.
  • In August 2012, West Liberty University became the first regional institution to establish an Honors College.
  • In August 2012, West Liberty University instituted the Advanced Academy of West Virginia – the state’s first dual enrollment program in which high achieving and motivated high school juniors and seniors take on-campus classes.

While the university grew, many faculty members grumbled.  They were not only concerned that his expectations would force them to work more, but they also loathed his past political affiliation with the Republican Party (in fact, he is a registered independent and has been for years).  Many professors were privately, and not so privately vocal that Capehart had the “wrong political affiliation” to be president.

Despite this myopic view, Capehart had the support of the Board of Governors, and the community, with the exception of die hard Yellow Dog Democrats in the Ohio Valley who would not assent under any circumstance that he performed anything beneficial for the college.

Capehart eventually hired a competent, but in some ways stringent, taskmaster CFO named Jack Wright.  He was strict, but in a responsible way.  It was Wright’s job to get the university functioning on some semblance of fiscal order.  Though Wright was a numbers man–all his experience coming from the private sector–between he and Capehart, they literally saved the college from many fiscal problems.  Together, they built the college into a real grown up university with a solid foundation. Faculty raises followed, and more and more faculty produced scholarly work.

Nevertheless, the faculty loathed Capehart and everyone of his appointments, including Wright.

Capehart was a supporter of the liberal arts, in the true sense of the word.  In a controversy a few years ago where one professor (no longer at WLU) banned students from citing Fox News in any of their research papers, the President defended academic freedom, but also raised concerns that a professor would ban knowledge from the classroom.  That act by this professor  was typical of a university that had a plethora of leftist professors who actually agreed with the Fox News ban.  Most, not all, people in my department defended the act of the prof to ban this legitimate news source from class.

Capehart came to WLU to “change the culture” by trying to hire quality faculty while also persuading the professoriate to be more amenable to competing ideas.  He desires a truly liberal campus where toleration and the competition of ideas could flourish.  The faculty, the classified staff, and many of those in the administration who were hired before he arrived, opposed him at every step and complained of his very presence on campus.

Yet he persevered.

Next Up:  The faculty attacks the president’s daughter, and violates her privacy and FERPA.