The Daily Athenaeum staff sat down Monday with WVU President E. Gordon Gee 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? Is it only until ongoing maintenance is completed, or is it a permanent expense?
Gee: You know, this is a difficult issue because we all know that we are limited financially, socially, culturally, but certainly financially. University, our aim is to be very low cost and very high quality. But there are certain areas — athletics and parking — that don’t use any tuition dollars. We try to make sure they are self-sustaining, and parking is one of them. But we know that parking is a very important issue, and [the Coliseum] it’s just not well maintained. It was not maintained; it was dangerous – lighting and stuff. So that’s why we did it. But it’s not about making money in it. It’s about preservation. And if and when we can pull it off, 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 places to park, safe places to park, and that we have enough places to park—which we don’t. we will never have them. You will never be able to satisfy this, but we are certainly trying to do so.
DA: Are rising tuition costs a trend students should expect to see in the future?
Gee: First of all, I hope we make it [the state Legislature] begin to understand 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 cost, we would be a very hot stock. This is where we want to be now. So will there be some tuition hikes? Maybe. Will they be modest? Absolutely. Are we going to do it in a very thoughtful way? Are we going to try to make sure that as we increase tuition, we also increase scholarship and financial aid support so it’s not a zero-sum game? This 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, this is one of the things where we were ahead of the curve. 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’ve put a lot of extra resources into Carruth, which is the student advising center. But Healthy Minds University is about long-term mental health care for students, because up until that point when we started, we really didn’t have a psychiatrist. So that’s about it. Now students don’t have to wait to get an appointment. I mean, in general, there’s always a meeting available 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 now. I feel good about the fact that we thought about this before the panel.
DA: How do Healthy Minds and the Carruth Center cater to the mental health needs of every student from a diverse background?
Gee: We are trying to create diverse members of the population of Healthy Minds and the Carruth Center. I just met a young person who was completely focused on graduate education. And of course, you know we have, in the building, people who really understand the nature of our Appalachian culture, the rural nature of our black and brown populations. I think we understand that we all come from a different place and 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’re hiring and the types of programs we’re developing.