marshall university cyber security gov. jim justice brad smith

Justice called the school the state’s second flagship university as cuts loom at WVU.

BY: CAITY COYNE – AUGUST 22, 2023 5:18 PM

More than a week after signing the bill into law on Aug. 14, Gov. Jim Justice held a bill signing ceremony for House Bill 117 — which allocates $45 million to Marshall University for the creation of a new cyber security program — on Tuesday. Demolition for the project began over two weeks ago, on Aug. 9.

Several state and school officials spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony, including House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley. Toney Stroud, general counsel for Marshall, praised the state’s leadership for their “tireless efforts,” “dedication,” “advocacy” and “continued commitment” to supporting Marshall. 

“It’s a great day. Marshall University is the one receiving the fund, but they’re a conduit for one of the components of creating a new West Virginia,” Blair said.

The new cyber security program and other innovations happening at Marshall with the support of the Legislature, Blair continued, are occurring because of teamwork between himself, Justice, Hanshaw and Marshall President Brad Smith. 

Walker Tatum, student body president at the school, said students “can’t even hold [their] excitement in for what is to come to Marshall University.”

That’s a much different sentiment than what students at West Virginia University were feeling this week as hundreds gathered for a walkout against proposed cuts at the school and called for the resignation of WVU President E. Gordon Gee. 

While the ceremony at Marshall was being held Tuesday, members of the WVU Board of Governors were meeting to discuss the proposed cuts, which could end 32 academic programs and lay off more than 100 faculty members at the state’s flagship university.

According to WVU officials, $45 million — the same amount allocated for the cyber security program — is the exact amount of the deficit WVU is facing.

During the special session, Delegates Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, Anitra Hamilton, D-Monongalia, and John Williams, D-Monongalia, proposed an amendment to add a $45 million surplus allocation to WVU in addition to Marshall. House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, ruled the amendment was not germane to the proposed bill.

Gee said during Monday’s faculty senate meeting that the university will not receive any financial assistance from the Legislature to help with the shortfall. He defended the potential cuts — which will be voted on by the West Virginia Board of Governors in September — as “good decisions.”

Because of those decisions, he said, the school will “have very specific asks” during the 2024 Legislative session “for infrastructure support and certain projects.”

At the Marshall ceremony, there was only one direct reference to the situation unfolding at WVU. Many of the comments, however, emphasized the role leaders hope Marshall will play in the future of higher education in West Virginia.

“We all know what’s going on at WVU, and they will work out their problems, but [Marshall came] into this year with a vision,” Blair said. “A 10-year plan if I remember right, and that is that [Marshall] students will be graduating with no student debt and with gainful employment that can be utilized in the state of West Virginia.”

Outside of telling a story about a football game he attended with former Marshall Football Head Coach Bob Pruett, Justice made one reference to WVU in his remarks at the ceremony.

“We have our flagship in many ways in WVU, and we have another flagship right here at Marshall,” Justice said. “And we’re proud aren’t we?”

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