WV lawmakers hear update on college rules

By JAKE JARVIS

Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s major universities have been slowly implementing new rules in light of two major higher education laws the Legislature passed in its most recent session.

One bill gives colleges greater flexibility when laying off employees. The other lessens independent oversight of three universities.

Those three schools — West Virginia University, Marshall University and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine — addressed an interim legislative committee Tuesday morning.
WVU has largely acted only on the part of the law that relates to personnel rules at colleges. In February, when the bill was first introduced, the school launched a series of “campus conversations” to talk about the bill and what it would mean for staff, according to Travis Mollohan, that school’s director of state and local relations.

The bill got rid of “bumping rights” that classified employees have. Instead, the schools consider not only an employee’s seniority when making layoffs, but also their performance and skill set.

“During the public comment period, out of a few thousand employees from Beckley, Keyser and the Morgantown campus, we received only 14 public comments from our staff,” Mollohan said. “That’s a good indicator that we communicated well, I believe. Of those 14, only eight were policy specific. The rest were, ‘What does this mean for me or for my department?’ ”

Mollohan said the school has updated its rules on how it deals with eliminating a position. If a job were to be eliminated, the employee holding that job would be given 60 days notice, during which they could either choose to take a severance package of somewhere between a month and a full year’s salary. The employee also could choose to file a grievance, Mollohan said.

“If an employee would take that severance package, he or she signs away future claims and their position is eliminated. However, if the business climate would change on campus, and the position would become available again, that employee — so long as they had a good performance evaluation — would have recall rights to that position.”

Mollohan said the school also will allow department managers to give raises without following a salary schedule, as long as the department’s budget allows it. He said this will help the school attract better talent from Pittsburgh and from north-central West Virginia.

West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine President Michael Adelman said his school is working slowly to update policies.

Marshall University has only enacted one rule change involving the two higher education bills, according to Bruce Felder, director of the school’s human resources services. Members of the public can comment about that rule, which the school’s Board of Governors passed at the end of October, online until Nov. 27.

That rule would allow the school’s president to recommend across-the-board salary increases, instead of simply giving salary increases to people to match a salary schedule.

Reach Jake Jarvis at [email protected], Facebook.com/newsroomjake, 304-348-7939 or follow @NewsroomJake on Twitter.

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