Eric Douglas Published

West Liberty Rejects Contract Extension For President

Franklin Evans West Liberty headshot.jpg

West Liberty University President W. Franklin Evans’ contract will expire at the end of this year after the university board of governors voted down a motion to offer him an extension.

The board of governors met in a regular meeting Wednesday evening. After nearly an hour in executive session, the board voted down a motion to extend Evans’ contract for one year, through 2023. The vote failed by a margin of 8 to 4.

Evans’ current contract is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022.

Evans has been under fire since October of last year when he admitted to at least one instance of failed accreditation for using another writer’s words in a speech he gave. The national news publication Inside Higher Ed, however, alleged that he failed to give proper attribution in several speeches. The board of governors voted to censure Evans.

According to the West Liberty University Student Code of Conduct:

Article III: Proscribed Conduct, Section B: Conduct – Rules and Regulations

Acts of dishonesty, including but not limited to the following:

    1. Cheating, plagiarism, or other forms of academic dishonesty.
    2. Furnishing false information to any University official, faculty member, or office.
    3. Forgery, alteration, or misuse of any University document, record, or instrument of identification.

“Academic Dishonesty, in whatever form, belies the stated philosophy of West Liberty University “to promote the development of the intellectual, cultural, social, physical, emotional, moral, and vocational capacities of all persons within its sphere of influence.” Individuals who commit acts of academic dishonesty violate the principles, which support the search for knowledge and truth. The academic community has established appropriate penalties and disciplinary action for such behavior. For full information on types of academic dishonesty, penalties, appeals, and procedures related to academic dishonesty, please refer to the University Catalog.”

At the time, board of governors chairman Rich Lucas acknowledged the board was aware of Evans not giving proper attribution in his recent speeches. Lucas said the board believes it was an “oversight,” and they remain confident that Evans is “the right person to lead” the university.

Evans also released a statement apologizing.

“I regret my lack of attribution in any speech or presentation that may have been given,” Evans said. “It was never my intent to give the impression that those were my exact words, and I failed to identify where the material came from. For that, I am sorry. I will make sure it doesn’t happen again. I want the best for West Liberty University, its students, staff and faculty. My goal is to continue serving the university in the manner expected by the Board of Governors.”

Inside Higher Ed’s report claimed Evans’ plagiarized lengthy passages in some cases from numerous speeches without giving credit to the original authors. It offered side-by-side comparisons of the original speeches to Evans’ remarks.

In April, the school’s faculty senate conducted a survey gauging their level of support for Evans since the censure last year. More than 80 percent of respondents to that survey disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “I am confident in the integrity of President Evans.”

Evans questioned the survey saying it was unfair and that race played a major role in his continued criticism. Evans is the university’s first Black president.

In May, West Liberty’s Faculty Senate Chairman Sean Ryan shared a statement with West Virginia Public Broadcasting saying, “There has been a lot of reporting lately on the faculty survey here at West Liberty. Overwhelmingly, faculty responses compel me to make a statement to properly contextualize this situation.

“The survey was intended to be an internal effort to provide candid feedback to the president and the board of governors. It is important to keep in mind that the genesis of this is rooted in behavior. As the president acknowledged … he compromised his integrity last fall. When the board of governors censured him on Nov. 3, they also tasked him with rebuilding trust and unifying the campus, and they were clear that he would be evaluated.

“This survey provides the president and the board candid feedback toward those objectives. The Board Governance Committee indicated before the survey went out that they wanted to see the results and would include the information in their assessment. They collect feedback from across the campus and board in their routine process. The president and the board have the information from the faculty and I am told that they will review it.”

The board of governors reported, at that time, that it would have a review of Evans’ first year completed in June and asked for unity in the time being.

The West Liberty University Board of Governors, created by the West Virginia Legislature as its governing body, consists of nine members appointed by the governor of West Virginia and three elected representatives by students, faculty and staff.