The Daily Athenaeum staff met with WVU President E. Gordon Gee on Monday for an exclusive interview. Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
DA: How long should students expect to pay for parking at the Coliseum? Only until ongoing maintenance is completed or is it an ongoing expense?
Gee: You know, it’s a tough question because we all know that we’re limited financially, socially, culturally, but certainly financially. The university, our goal is to be very low cost and very high quality. But there are certain areas — athletics and parking — that don’t use any training dollars. We try to make sure they are self-sustaining and parking is one of them. But we know that parking is an incredibly important issue and [the Coliseum] it’s just not well maintained. It was not well maintained; it was dangerous – the lighting and stuff. So that’s why we do it. But it’s not about making money out of it. It’s about maintenance. And if and if at the right time we can remove it, we certainly will. But again, parking on this campus is a real challenge, you know, and we want to make sure that we have good parking spaces, safe parking spaces, and that we have enough parking spaces — which we’re never going to have. You will never be able to satisfy this, but we certainly try to.
DA: Is rising tuition costs a trend that students should expect to see in the future?
Gee: Above all, I hope we get [the state Legislature] to begin to realize that the best investment we can make is in higher education. But our goal is to remain very competitive in terms of tuition costs. I always joke that if we were on the New York Stock Exchange, given our quality and our price, we would be a very hot stock. That’s where we want to be. So will there be tuition increases? Probably. Will they be modest? Absolutely. Will we do it in a very thoughtful way? Are we going to try to ensure that as we increase tuition, we also increase scholarship and financial aid support so that it’s not a zero-sum game? It is important
DA: It’s been a year since Healthy Minds University opened. What challenges were identified by the university that led to its development?
Gee: Fortunately, that’s one of the things we’ve been curbing. With the Carruth Center and others, we have really identified mental health challenges among students, faculty and staff. Then the pandemic hit and we did a review. We put a lot of extra resources into Carruth, which is the student counseling center. But Healthy Minds University is really about long-term student mental health care, because up until that point when we started, we didn’t really have psychiatry. So, that’s what it’s about. Now students don’t have to wait to get a class. I mean, generally there’s always a free date for people, so we’ve made improvements. But it’s a challenge to make sure we’re meeting the needs of students where they are with what they want to have right now. I feel good about the fact that we considered this before the panel.
DA: How do Healthy Minds and the Carruth Center address the mental health needs of every student from a diverse background?
Gee: We try to create diverse members of the Healthy Minds and Carruth Center populations. I just met a new guy who was totally focused on graduate school. And of course, you know we have people in the building who really understand the nature of our Appalachian culture, the rural nature of our black and brown population. I think we understand that we all come from a different place and in order to be able to meet people where they are, we also find people who can meet them where they are. So we’ve really diversified the types of people we hire and the types of programs we develop.