Gee: WVU-P affiliation beneficial

PARKERSBURG – An anticipated cracker plant and economic development in Wood County make West Virginia University’s continued relationship with West Virginia University at Parkersburg “a compelling opportunity,” says WVU President E. Gordon Gee.

Gee spoke on the university’s relationship and contract with WVU-P Wednesday during a visit to the Mid-Ohio Valley. Gee, who was recently appointed as WVU’s president, is touring the state’s 55 counties speaking on the university’s role in economic development and the issues facing higher education in West Virginia.

In 2008 a change in state law split the regional campus from its parent university. After nearly a year of negotiations between the two entities, a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2009 allowing WVU-P to operate as an affiliated campus, which included the continued use of the WVU name and flying WV logo.

The agreement included the option of either school giving a one-year notice to sever ties, allowing the other school time to rectify any problems or look at making a break.

Rumors have swirled for the past two years concerning the end of the contract, but nothing has been announced officially.

Katie Wootton, spokeswoman for WVU-P, said the college has made no move to end the agreement with WVU. Wootton said officials have worked to consolidate some human resources and financial services at the Parkersburg campus, services the college has been paying WVU to provide, but college officials have not discussed ending the affiliation or memorandum of understanding.

West Virginia University officials say likewise nothing has been done by the university to end that relationship.

“There has been no formal notice,” said John Bolt, spokesman for WVU. “We are still doing what we have always done.”

Gee said he believes the university’s relationship with WVU-P has been mutually beneficial.

“My personal opinion is, I would love to have a relationship continue. I think it is a very positive relationship.”

Gee said he plans to sit down with Rhonda Tracy, WVU-P’s interim president, to discuss the two institutions.

“I need to understand what the law is, I need to understand what the relationship is, but I can tell you our intent is to maintain a very close relationship with that institution,” Gee said. “How it is going to be structured, I think that the jury is still out on that.”

But Gee said he believes the Parkersburg college will be increasingly important with the possibility of a new cracker plant and other areas of economic development.

“That makes it a compelling opportunity,” he said. “I think WVU’s job is to c7reate ideas and create jobs, and our community college partners and smaller institutions have a responsibility to train the people for those jobs.”

Tracy, who was out of town Wednesday, sent an email saying she was pleased with Gee’s remarks.

“We are encouraged by Dr.Gee’s openness in discussing our future and the relationship between our institutions,” Tracy said. “We have worn with pride the WVU name for more than 25 years and it has great meaning and value to our internal and external communities.”