As a result of my last post, I have received various ad hominem attacks questioning my ability to understand the concept of tortious interference, and libel. Not one has actually engaged–as a true academic would–on the argument I am making. One made a veiled threat on my spouse. As a result, I have renewed vigor to continue. To those anonymous cowards, the quote below is for you:
“And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”
~Winston Churchill on the Munich Agreement, October 5, 1938
This blog has been telling a story from the public documents and statements of faculty and staff at WLU. I have included anecdotal statements to this author, about the persecution of former WLU President Robin Capehart, and anyone on campus who supported him, or who it was perceived supported him. Anyone who stood up to the bullies on campus and who wanted to bring a semblance of rationality to the imbroglio, were deemed unfit to remain on campus and had to be fired.
One of the most unintellectual and non-academic claims against Capehart–and former CFO Jack Wright–was that they caused a budget shortfall of somewhere between $1-3 million. They did this, and no one else, so goes the argument. They claim that Capehart caused this shortfall by his “illegal” activities–that we now know he did not commit. Another claim is that Capehart and Wright allowed unnamed consultants to drain the funds of the college–a charge that has no evidence or basis in fact. No charges have ever been filed.
We contend that many at WLU purposely misrepresented the budget problem to malign a decent man, and other human beings, associated with Capehart in order to effect their political pogrom and ideological war on academic freedom. We further contend, that if there was any decline in the budget revenues, the faculty senate only need look in the mirror for the cause. Anecdotally, I never heard one parent say they were not sending their child to WLU because of Capehart. However, I did hear countless parents say they were not sending their child to WLU because of the behavior and unprofessionalism of the faculty and staff.
There is another, and more reliable, reason why WLU lost revenue. When we speak of lost revenue we are making a comparative statement: lost compared to what? In order to make this easier, we shall confine our project assessment, for the most part, to the year before Capehart left: 2014-2015.
The faculty senate complained in near sackcloth and ashes that Capehart was responsible for the decline in enrollment, and hence, the decline in revenue at WLU. They stated this as a reason for their gnashing of teeth against him in early 2015.
Our conclusion is that some of the blame for the oversight of declining enrollment resides with the Vice President of Student Services/Registrar Enrollment Services in the Registrar’s Office, and the VP, Institutional Advancement. Yet in that, we cannot completely let Capehart off the hook: he could have replaced them if he wanted.
One way we will do this is to look at audit reports, minutes of the BOG, WVHEPC documentation, enrollment reports, and more complicatedly, compare the enrollment numbers from area high schools, adjust for graduation rates, to get at a number that can be transferred into revenue lost for the college. People of advanced degrees should know how to do this; the faculty senate should have studied this. However, lazy academicians fail to engage in real research, and the faculty at WLU did nothing in this regard. Faculty should also be dispassionate enough in order to consider facts and numbers in absence of political agenda. They didn’t, and still haven’t.
Here are the data for enrollment for WV. Whether it’s Marshall, Ohio, Wetzel, or Brooke counties, the bell tolls for WLU. The enrollment in all high schools since 2008-2009 is dropping off rapidly. The end result will be loss of student population and freshman enrollment. Why? Because WLU has been a regional school drawing its students mostly from the local community in the Ohio Valley. Capehart tried to broaden the base as he could foresee the numbers I link here, but he was met with resistance from the development and registrars offices, not to mention the professors who balked at online education. His aim was to make WLU a more national university. The closed society at WLU did not want that. So, as we can see from the actual enrollment facts, WLU is headed for trouble in the present and future, and the present administration has no plan to figure out how to compensate for the imminent revenue decline. What is to come will make any present shortfall look like a mere pittance if drastic changes are not made.
As it pertains to the period we are concerned–the last year or two of Capehart’s presidency–we find more immediate mixed results. We have to be honest with the numbers. Here are the graduation numbers for the state of WV. The enrollment data for Ohio is here. Overall, there is a decline in enrollment of both graduation rates, or sheer numbers of 12th graders in the years between 2013-2014/15. If we count the graduation rates of each school, we do not find the loss of enrollment for WLU reaches the shortfall amount the year Capehart left. Though there is a loss in graduation and enrollments in that year, it does not make up for the $1-3 million shortfall that WLU faced this year with WV counted alone. However, counting the high schools just across the river, in Ohio, gets us closer to the shortfall number.
Steubenville alone lost 20 seniors between 2013-2015, St. Clairsville plummeted to 92 in 2015. Bellaire’s 12th grade class? 67, a drop of about 10 students. Martin’s Ferry’s seniors went from 123 to 90. These declines can be reproduced over and over and over no matter the city, town, district, in Ohio and the Ohio Valley. Coupled with WV’s decline in graduating seniors, and declining student enrollment, we have a trend that cannot be pinned on the former president. The decline of the high school student population in just these two states amounts to more than $1,000,000 in revenue for WLU. If we were to count Pennsylvania in our calculations, we would be closer to $1.5 million in lost revenue. We need to push out farther to other high schools to account for the lost revenue that reaches $3 million.
We shall pick this up below with some internal numbers from WLU. But first, lets look at a few colleges in the state. Here is the enrollment report for Marshall. Here is a limited enrollment report from Shepherd. No matter the data set one looks at, Fairmont State, or Glenville State College, or any other, we find a significant decline in enrollment. The thing is, at many of these colleges, the decline has been happening since 2005-7. What about West Liberty? Has that occurred at WLU too? NO. Or it has been mitigated contrary to trends, as we shall consider below.
In fact WLU outperformed most colleges in the state when Capehart was at the helm. According to the recent WLU enrollment report, Freshman enrollment has been falling since 2012—despite the enrollment decline at area high schools since before that time.
Before we consider the general decline, we should examine the problem with WLU’s internal dysfunction. We find that in Arts & Com there is a stagnating to declining student enrollment population, while only the sciences and professional studies are actually holding their own. Only professional studies is growing. Arts & Com is a significant money drain on the college. Let us count the ways from enrollment in 2014-2015:
- Graphic Design: 82-55
- Communications: 17-0 (yes that’s right, ZERO majors).
- Sports broadcasting: 3-0 (another zero for 2015)
- Documentary film: 1-0 (zero, the motto of Arts & Com).
Overall, Arts and Com—a school with its own Dean and staff that goes along with the perk of being a Dean—has a total of 240 majors. Does it really belong as it’s own school? It used to be a part of the College of Liberal Arts. It should perhaps go back to CLA since, on their own, they have failed miserably to attract students. And the move back to CLA would save WLU hundreds of thousands of dollars. Capehart and Wright were proposing just that before the revolt.
The business school’s enrollments are down, but largely static. They have 361 majors. Education is bleeding students, but at least they still have 493 students. The liberal Arts is also bleeding students. One interesting note: the geography department has three professors, and 6 majors total. Other than philosophy, which has 2 professors and 0 majors, that is the lowest student to faculty ratio on campus. The provost is a geography major incidentally, and still teaches classes. Most of the declines in LA have come from Criminal Justice though (from 133-91). Astonishingly, there are plans not to scale back CJ faculty. Indeed, the proposal is to start a new graduate program and hire more faculty! So, while CJ loses students, they are doubling down and starting a master’s program that will cost the university much more money than it can offset in revenues.
Cleaning up the geography major, and scaling back CJ (where demand is falling) would save the university another 6 digits in revenue loss.
On page 6 (of 52 in the enrollment report) we see that the faculty senate fabricated the reason for the decline at WLU and misplaced the blame on Capehart that it should have placed on others, including themselves. Student enrollment outside the Ohio Valley has been plummeting. That means something else must be going on than local coverage of the ethics “investigation” against Capehart. In all the states combined excluding PA, OH, WV, WLU lost about 45 students in the period between 2013-2015. Between 2014-2015 WLU lost 26 students from Ohio. In actuality, WLU student enrollment from Ohio is fairly static with a peak of 580 under Capehart’s leadership in 2011 to 495 presently. Still, there is a revenue loss from the two surrounding states of PA and OH (under the metro rate) of close to $500,000.
From PA, WLU has lost only 7 students. But here again, PA has been largely static over the years, peaking at 150 in both 2010 AND 2014. However, there can be no doubt that Capehart’s ethics charges did not have an effect on the decline in enrollment outside WV because there was little chance, if any, that his story would have been on the radar of parents outside the immediate area. Decline in the number of students from WV from 2014-2015 is 369, or a loss of revenue of about $1.5 million.
On pages 9-10 we see that the big enrollment hit on WLU comes from nearly every county in the state (closely correlating to the enrollment losses at other colleges in the state), but also correlating to the losses locally at high schools in the counties of Wetzel, Ohio, Brooke, Hancock, and Marshall. In other words, student decline at WLU is closely tracked enrollment declines at the area high schools. What is the registrar doing about that? What is the strategy to go outside the traditional marketing area to compete for students?
The rest of the document screams incompetence. The registrar knows the feeder schools are declining in enrollment, and he has known this for years. From pp. 16-25 there is data mark after data mark noting troubled times ahead in the Ohio Valley in terms of enrollment. Yet, the registrar’s biggest marketing ploy is an open house in the spring to try lure local high school students to campus in the fall. This is mind-bogglingly myopic, and dangerous for the life of WLU if it continues. To this date, there is no strategic national plan to save the college from ruin by the registrar or the marketing team.
But, let’s consider this: if Capehart gets the blame for the drop in enrollment between 2014-2015, then he should get the credit for the massive increases between 2008-2012. I know from my days on the senate and as a faculty member that Capehart’s attempts to broaden the appeal of WLU was met with resistance by the faculty and staff. The end result will be a R.I.P. for WLU because the institution has no strategy for its very survival in the future.
Another alarming statistic is WLU’s retention rates are dismal. On page 47, we find that WLU can only hold onto 66% of its students after freshmen spend one year there. WVU holds onto 80%. What is wrong with WLU that students leave? Is it because it is accepting students who are not capable of college work? The average ACT score at WLU is about 20, so average. Is it because of something else then? Likely it is something else.
I lost students in my own program because, while they liked a few professors at WLU, they loathed most others. They abhorred the way the faculty not only treated students, but the way they treated human beings period. As we shall see in a future post, the Dean and provost of WLU actually encouraged students in political science to LEAVE the major, if not the college. One very capable student left the college, and the interim chair cared not one bit about it. You see, he was of the wrong political party, and was an Afghanistan veteran, so, you know, the wrong kind of student for a leftist college. Some retention strategy that is. In essence, though anecdotal, students find WLU has a contentious and unprofessional faculty and staff, and many who left have told me they wanted no part of it. College is difficult enough without having to deal with a bunch of alleged adults who cannot seem to act professionally. The stories are so numerous, I cannot account them all.
It is at this point I’d like to recommend the WV Legislature to step in and seize the college. They have the authority. They alone possess the oversight. WLU is in serious financial trouble that is not going away. The legislature’s role in oversight, and in restructuring the college, including a potential house cleaning, may be in order if WLU will survive the mess they caused for themselves.
Back to the numbers: if you count the constant decline of state appropriation, we have losses in revenue of over $1 million. Is Capehart to blame for that too? The legislature was helping Capehart to give WLU some freedom from some of the statutory regulations so the college could survive without resorting to state bailouts. Now that the faculty got its wish to remove him, those much needed freedoms are likely gone, along with Wright, Stack, Shaffer, Knierim, and Monroe. Still, the declining state appropriation, now gets the college’s shortfall to near $3 million for 2015. There’s your answer. It was not Capehart, or his salary, or the alleged siphoning of funds by consultants, or a conspiracy of Capehart and Wright to…to…to…the faculty senate never really said what Capehart and Wright conspired to do. If there was any loss in students, the faculty is solely to blame.
When I was affiliated with a Chicago University part-time while I cared for my dying father, and terminally ill wife, I marveled at how this institution of higher ed went from about 3000 students to nearly 10,000 in short order. To this day, it is breaking records. Why? The college hired an ambitious and smart registrar from a prestigious university in downtown Chicago. This person understood enrollment strategy and then effected that strategy. It worked.
But as noted here, in the WVHEPC 2014 Report Card, WLU under Capehart has been beating state trends (comparatively) since 2009 (to 2013) in several categories: graduate, undergraduate, FTE, etc. Even when there is a decline, WLU has blunted the decline better than over 50% of the 4 year institutions in WV. How dare Capehart do that! Indeed, the data suggests that it is because Capehart left by an attempt to oust him that the numbers fell at WLU. Under Capehart, no matter the category, enrollment was up, or the decline was mitigated than at any other institution in the state save one or two depending on the category.
On page 9, between 2009-2013, WLU is one of the only colleges in the state other than WVU and Marshall, that grew. Everyone else lost students. Capehart’s WLU beat state trends. On page 10 we find WLU far and away the college with the largest growth of graduate students. Capehart’s WLU beat state trends. In Undergraduate FTE we see WLU slightly declined and Marshall and WVU gained. But WLU’s decline is less than every other college. Capehart’s WLU beat state trends, for the most part. On page 12, WLU’s graduate FTE is outstanding in this period. Capehart’s WLU decimates state trends. On page 14, Capehart’s numbers reflect the declining enrollment in the Ohio Valley—down 13.2%, while only WVU grew. But the decline is about middle of the pack when considering the other declines. Capehart’s WLU reflected state trends.
Overall, between 2009-2013, and before the faculty conducted an acrimonious public campaign to oust the president and his staff, WLU was beating state trends and growing. This does not mean there were not ominous signs on the horizon, but it does mean he did his job. The period between 2014-2015 represented another double digit (13+%) decline for the university. But this was only after the faculty senate mugged for the camera and went to the press to criticize the university during recruitment season.
With all of these data, a conclusion may now be drawn: the faculty did not care about actual numbers or facts. They rejected their training and academics to effect their factional passions. In the process, they made a mockery of higher education and their very own authority to provide a liberal education. They abandoned all sense of justice to effect their political agenda. They trumped up charges against Capehart and Wright to try to oust anyone not “approved” by the political intelligentsia. The students saw this, and left or they did not bother to apply. Those that could be retained were either told to leave by an unprofessional faculty, or they left on their own cognizance.
The raw numbers vindicate Capehart, and condemn the faculty senate.
Let us all remember this: the faculty and staff at WLU could have waited to oust Capehart quietly over the summer of 2015 when there were few to no students, and families were busy with their summer festivities. They chose not to do that. They chose to wage a public campaign against an innocent man to self aggrandize themselves like they were academic Kardashians. They did this even while knowing they were destroying their own place of work, and real human lives.
Shame on them.
Next Up: I will finally tell my story in at least two parts. The series draws to a close soon, unless there are more developments.