Reiterating that”West Virginias strong 4-H program deserves a thoughtful, thorough review that includes many people, many opinions and many solutions,” WVU President David C. Hardesty, Jr., today announced a revised approach to addressing the issue of Native American customs in West Virginias 4-H summer camping program.

“As of today, we are slowing down this process,”Hardesty said.”We want to take a year to study this issue, with the goal of retaining as many of the customs as we are permitted.

“Weve listened to the West Virginians who have made their very passionate voices heard on this issue,”Hardesty added,”and 4-H camp and educational programs will continue as usual this summer.”

He said the Extension Service, with broad input from 4-H leaders, volunteers, alumni and members, will take the coming year to do a more thoughtful, thorough review of 4-H camping programs and practices. From that review, recommendations will be developed for the 2003 camping season.

WVU Extension officials have been operating under verbal directives from officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move swiftly to make changes to remove allegedly offensive Native American customs and rituals from the 4-H camping program.

“We acted swiftly to protect the 4-H program from severe financial threat, and we acted on what we thought were clear directives from the USDA ,”said Larry Cote, associate provost and director of WVU Extension Service. Cote said he awaits clarification in writing from the USDA on their policy and position. The USDA owns the 4-H name and emblem and is the major funder of the statewide program through the Extension Service.

Cote also announced the appointment of two Extension employees to lead the statewide effort to review the 4-H camping program: Dave Snively of Morgantown and Sue Jones of Grantsville, both 4-Hers, members of 4-H All Stars and native West Virginians.

Apologizing to the 4-H community for”the difficulty this issue has caused all of us,”Cote said,”Our goal continues to be to move forward and to keep West Virginia 4-H strong. We will ensure that all West Virginia youth are welcomed to 4-Hand are inspired, grow and develop through fun, memorable experiences within a nurturing environment.”