A letter from Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball to the WV Conference

By Sandra Steiner Ball

Dear Members of the West Virginia Conference,

This has been a difficult week for our West Virginia Wesleyan College family.  Some of you may be aware that Monday, November 6, our beloved United Methodist related institution, West Virginia Wesleyan College, experienced a reduction of force. Twenty-seven faculty and staff were informed on Monday that they were being laid off or that their contracts would not be renewed.  As the bishop of the West Virginia Conference and a member of the Board of Trustees, I grieve and regret this reduction of force, but also know it was necessary to help sustain the College long term and I support the responsible steps that our new College President has taken to protect the College’s future and sustainability, as well as to maintain the health and quality of the College.  Please keep in prayer the families affected by this reduction, as well as the students, faculty, staff, and administration of West Virginia Wesleyan College.

This reduction in force is caused by market pressures and revenue challenges.  President Thierstein has made it clear that the persons who were being let go have done nothing wrong.  There were no performance or behavioral issues involved.  The people affected by this action were beloved members of the campus community.  The reduction in force and contract terminations were needed as part of an effort to solidify the school’s budget and to help ensure that future budgets and staffing are sustainable to support the students that West Virginia Wesleyan serves. No academic or co-curricular programs are being eliminated. No majors were affected.  No programs were shut down.  The College is not moving to Division III status.

One of the positions affected by the reduction of staff was the Chaplain’s position which was served by a clergy person of the West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church. President Thierstein and I have been in discussion regarding the vacancy in the Chaplain’s office.  The President has consistently reinforced his desire for a strong United Methodist engagement with students, presence on campus, and partnership between the West Virginia Conference and West Virginia Wesleyan College.  From the beginning of his presidency, Dr. Thierstein has invited my help and ideas on how this can best be accomplished.  We have been and will continue to work together on new ways to strengthen our involvement and fashion our Conference relationship with the College. While a media resource reported that I was contacted about the College reduction in force and would make no comment, in fact, no media source has contacted me regarding the reduction of force.

There are seven members of the Board of Trustees of West Virginia Wesleyan College who are clergy members of the West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.  This subgroup of the Trustees has been working with President Thierstein since Monday, November 6 to do everything in its power to help the College move through this transitional period with the least disruption in spiritual and religious life and programming for students.  The College and the Conference have been and will continue to work together to ensure complete coverage of the religious, spiritual, and educational needs of the students.

I have no doubt that there is a bright future for West Virginia Wesleyan College – it’s students, faculty, staff, and administration.  I am thankful for a College President who unknowingly inherited a challenging situation and yet is passionate and excited to take advantage of the endless opportunities that lie before West Virginia Wesleyan College not only to continue to be a great institution of higher education but to lead it to be an extraordinary place for students to discover and use their gifts in ways that will transform this world into a better, more peaceful, and more joy-filled place for all of God’s people.

Grace and Peace,

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball