Faculty Senate addresses pending tax reform and concealed carry legislation

Marshall University’s Faculty Senate addressed concerns about the recent tax reform bill in the federal legislature and a West Virginia Legislature bill which would allow concealed carry of weapons on college campuses Thursday at its meeting.

Damien Arthur, professor of political science, said Marshall faculty need to take action quickly in response to the House of Representatives tax reform bill being considered in the federal legislature. The bill requires that graduate students pay an income tax on the worth of any tuition scholarship, in addition to stipends they are provided with. Arthur said the tax bill is in the reconciliation process, which will determine the inclusion of the aspect of the legislation relevant to graduate students. He said the House’s version of the bill includes the tax on graduate scholarships, but the Senate’s version does not.

“Effectively, it will make it very difficult to go to graduate school unless they can pay the tax on that new income,” Arthur said. “That runs the gamut of any major, any degree that you’re looking at.”

Paige Muellerleile, chair of Faculty Senate and psychology professor, said she, along with Marshall President Jerry Gilbert, have already written to their representatives concerning the tax reform bill.

At its most recent meeting, the Advisory Council of Faculty voted to oppose a bill which would allow concealed carry of weapons on college campuses. Marybeth Beller, associate professor of political science, said the bill will be reintroduced into the West Virginia legislature and was opposed in a vote last year by multiple university faculty senates, including Marshall’s. Beller said WVU opposed the bill previously on economic grounds, noting the bill’s requirement that schools also provide a weapon-free area of campus would be a financial burden.

“If that happens, it’s a huge fiscal impact for schools, because they have to purchase metal detectors for the entrance to those buildings or they have to hire or operate a police force to go through all of the bags and search the people coming in and out of the entrances, and it’s a huge fiscal imposition to campus,” Beller said.

Beller said Marshall’s Advisory Council of Faculty concluded the ramifications of the bill would endanger faculty, staff and students and impose an economic burden on the university.

Beller also announced three West Virginia House delegates would participate in roundtable discussions Thursday night on Marshall’s campus with faculty members. Beller said if Marshall faculty wanted the legislature to hear their requests, they needed to determine how faculty could better inform legislators and communicate clearly. 

“One of the things that we’re hoping will come out of this is that we have a genuine two-way discussion to not only tell legislators our concerns, but also to ask them how they see the work of higher education – tonight specifically of Marshall – what is it they need to be fully informed of the work that we do, what else they might like to see coming out of higher education,” Beller said.

At the conclusion of the senate meeting, Kelli Johnson, Marshall reference and instructor librarian, spoke about Huntington’s Open to All campaign, in which businesses are able to place a sticker in their windows to inform customers that the business will not discriminate. Johnson announced Gilbert will declare Marshall an Open to All university in January.

The next Faculty Senate meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Jan. 18 in the Memorial Student Center.

Caroline Kimbro can be contacted at [email protected]